Kathleen Blake of the Rusty Spoon and Luma on Park’s Brandon McGlamery have become first-time semifinalists for a Best Chef award from the James Beard Foundation, joining previous nominees Scott Hunnel (Victoria & Albert’s), Hari Pulapaka (Cress) and James and Julie Petrakis (The Ravenous Pig), who once again have been nominated as a team. All are nominated for the South region.
In addition, Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is nominated in the Outstanding Service category.
The semifinalists are part of an initial ballot that will be presented to judges throughout the country who will select five finalists. The winners will be announced in a black-tie presentation at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall on May 6, 2013.
Central Florida chefs have been showing up on as semifinalists for several years — Hunnel has been nominated more times than any other local chefs — but none has made it to the final ballot, let alone brought home the award. Norman Van Aken is a past winner, but he won when his restaurant was in Coral Gables and before he opened Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando.
Hunnel is currently in New York where he will be cooking a dinner for members of the New York media, some of whom, like me, may be voters. Because the voters must swear that they have eaten the food of the chefs they vote for, the dinner may allow them to cast a ballot for Hunnel in good conscience.