Today, the James Beard Foundation announced its Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists for 2020, and New Orleans is represented with 14 nominations in eight categories.
The list of semifinalists will be whittled down to five finalists per category. The final Restaurant and Chef Award nominees will be announced Wednesday, March 25, with the winners revealed at the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago on May 4.
Last year, after 14 New Orleans chefs and restaurants received nominations and five were named finalists, New Orleans wound end up represented in just one winning category — Willa Jean’s Kelly Field’s took home Outstanding Pastry chef.
Here’s the 2020 long list:
Best New Restaurant
The latest restaurant from Donald Link’s group, Gianna, is nominated. Gianna, which opened April 20, is led by talented young chef Rebecca Wilcomb, who helped design a menu based on the regional Italian cooking from her grandmother’s kitchen.
Graison Gill, the local baker behind the beloved Bellegarde brand, is nominated in the Outstanding Baker category. Gill opened his first retail bakery in July.
Donald Link of Herbsaint is nominated once again, a finalist six times in the past for this award, including in 2018. In 2010, Link’s cookbook, Real Cajun, won a James Beard Award and in 2007 he was named Best Chef: South.
Brigtsen’s is nominated, a semi-finalist in the service category ten times before.
Once again, JoAnn Clevenger of Upperline is nominated. Clevenger was also nominated for this honor in 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2015.
Outstanding Wine Program
Bacchanal gets the nod in this category in 2020, same as in 2018 and 2019.
Rising Star of the Year
Ana Castro is once again the only local semifinalist for this award. Getting her start at Kristin Essig and Michael Stoltzfus’s Coquette, she now helps lead the kitchen at six month old Thalia, a finalist for Best Restaurant in Eater NOLA’s annual awards.
Best Chefs: South
New Orleans has three exciting chefs nominated for the first time in the Best Chef: South, category, which recognizes chefs in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Blake Aguillard and William “Trey” Smith, the team behind the Eater Award winning Restaurant of the Year Saint-Germain, and Hao Gong, the creative mind behind the sushi bar at Uptown’s LUVI.
Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette and the new Thalia were once again nominated, as in 2019 and 2018. For the second year in a row, Michael Gulotta of Maypop, Mason Hereford of Turkey and the Wolf, and Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery, also a finalist for this award in 2016, were all nominated.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.