The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its coveted chef and restaurant awards in a ceremony Wednesday at Orlando’s East End Market. Among the nominees for Best Chef, South Region, which includes Florida, are Henry Salgado, Spanish River Seafood Grill, New Smyrna Beach; Hari Pulapaka, Cress, Deland; and James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park. A surprising omission from the list this year is Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s, who has been a semifinalist six times previously. A full list of nominees can be seen here.
Foundation president Susan Ungaro announced the nominees along with Norman Van Aken of Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton. This is the first time the organization has made the announcement outside New York, where it is based. The event was orchestrated and hosted by Visit Orlando. Visit Orlando president and CEO George Aguell also spoke at the ceremony giving a shoutout to East End Market as being the first facility of its kind in the southeast.
Chefs and restaurants are nominated for the awards by critics and food writers who serve as regional judges. The judges will vote for up to five of the semifinalists. Those getting the most votes will move to a final ballot. The finalists will be announced March 18. The Beard Awards will be presented during a black tie gala at New York’s Lincoln Center on May 5.
Central Florida has had nominees on the semifinals list but no one has made it to the final ballot or won the award. Previous nominees include Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s; Kevin Fonzo, K restaurant; James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig; Hari Pulapaka, Cress; Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon; Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park; and Henry Salgado, Spanish River Seafood Grill.
Those chefs gathered at Winter Park’s Alfond Inn Tuesday for a dinner hosted by celebrity chef Norman Van Aken. Guests paid $200 to attend the sold out event, which was a fundraiser for Beard scholarships.