The semifinalists for the 2022 James Beard Awards have dropped, and there are seven New Orleans chefs on the longlist this year.
In the best chef, South category, which covers Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico, are:
- Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith, the chefs behind Bywater restaurant Saint-Germain, a spot that serves Parisian-influenced five-course tasting menus as well as a handful of small plates served at the bar or in the courtyard.
- Hao Gong of Luvi, the Uptown cottage that’s home to one of the city’s top destinations for Shanghai specialties and exquisite raw fish preparations.
- Melissa M. Martin, chef and owner of Mosquito Supper Club, a restaurant that helped reignite a citywide appreciation of traditional Louisiana cuisine, separate but related to the Creole food more typically found in New Orleans.
- Michael Nelson, of GW Fins, known as one of the top destinations for seafood in New Orleans for Nelson’s careful treatment of Ōra King salmon, halibut, scallops, lobster, and more.
- Allison Richard, the chef at High Hat Cafe, a delightful spot that serves traditional Creole staples like red beans and rice, gumbo, and stuffed peppers.
- Isaac Toups, the celebrity chef behind Mid City’s longtime neighborhood destination Toups’ Meatery, where he reinvents the Cajun cuisine of his upbringing.
The James Beard Foundation has replaced the rising star chef award with an emerging chef category, and one New Orleans chef nabbed a semifinalist nod in the category: Serigne Mbaye, the chef behind Dakar Nola (and Eater New Orleans’s winner for 2021 chef of the year). Fritai, Charly Pierre’s nine-month old Haitian restaurant in the Treme, is a semifinalist for best new restaurant, as is Lengua Madre, the LGD tasting restaurant with chef Ana Castro at the helm (Fritai was named restaurant of the year for New Orleans’s 2021 Eater Awards). St. Charles Avenue beer bar the Avenue Pub is nominated for outstanding bar program. Brennan’s, the French Quarter fine-dining institution from the legendary Brennan restaurant family, is a semifinalist in the outstanding restaurant category.
In total, 12 New Orleans restaurants and chefs were selected as semifinalists.
The awards have not taken place for the last two years; in 2020, they were canceled midseason (after the semifinalists were named) following accusations of bias and a lack of diversity represented amongst winners, and the 2021 awards were not held while the foundation conducted an “audit” of its processes. The foundation says it has implemented new practices going forward, including policy changes and the creation of an independent ethics committee.
Finalists will be announced on Wednesday, March 16, while winners will be announced at a gala in Chicago on Monday, June 13. Here’s the complete list of semifinalists for restaurants and chefs.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.