The semifinalists for the 2023 James Beard Awards have dropped, and this year there are 12 New Orleans chefs (or chef duos) and restaurants on the longlist, including 10 chefs from seven restaurants as semifinalists in the best chef, South category.
New Orleans hero Nina Compton, chef and co-owner of Compère Lapin, Bywater American Bistro, and a forthcoming restaurant in Caesars New Orleans, is a semifinalist in the outstanding chef category. Compton was nominated for best chef, South, in 2017, and won the James Beard Award for the same category in 2018.
Last year, the Beards replaced its rising star chef award with an emerging chef category, and for the second year in a row, Serigne Mbaye, the chef behind Dakar NOLA (and Eater New Orleans’s winner for 2021 chef of the year) has been named a semifinalist. Mbaye opened his first restaurant in November 2022, bringing his acclaimed Senegalese tasting dinners to a permanent home at 3814 Magazine Street. Mbaye made it to the finalist round for emerging chef in 2022, but did not take home the award.
For the best chef, South category, which covers Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico, 10 chefs from seven New Orleans restaurants are represented:
- Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith, the chefs of inventive Bywater restaurant Saint-Germain
- Ana Castro, chef of Lengua Madre
- Amarys and Jordan Herndon, the chef duo at Palm and Pine
- Melissa M. Martin, chef and owner of Mosquito Supper Club
- Charly Pierre of Fritai, which was named restaurant of the year for New Orleans’s 2021 Eater Awards
- Colleen Quarls and Liz Hollinger of Molly’s Rise and Shine, sister restaurant to Turkey and the Wolf
- Michael Stoltzfus, the longtime chef at Coquette
Three Mississippi chefs from two restaurants were also named semifinalists in the best chef, South category: Alex Perry and Kumi Omori of Vestige in Ocean Springs, and Hunter Evans of Elvie’s in Jackson.
An unexpected but delightful recognition goes to Angelo Brocato in a brand new category for 2023 — outstanding bakery. The iconic family-run Italian bakery and gelateria has been a New Orleans favorite for more than 100 years, known for its spumoni, freshly piped cannoli, Italian cookies, and classic gelato. Brennan’s, the French Quarter fine-dining institution from the Brennan restaurant family that is currently led by executive chef Ryan Hacker, is a semifinalist in the outstanding restaurant category for the second year in a row. Commander’s Palace was named a semifinalist for outstanding wine or beverages program.
In total, 12 New Orleans restaurants and chefs or chef duos were selected as semifinalists. For the full list of semifinalists, see here.
Finalists will be announced on Wednesday, March 29, while winners will be announced at a gala in Chicago on Monday, June 5. 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.