It's been more than a decade since Arizona chef Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant in Cave Creek first popped up on the James Beard awards list of semifinalists in the Best Chef: Southwest category. And for the last four years, Binkley has also made what's often called the "short list," or the list of five finalists in the regional chef award category.
Today, that four-year streak came to an end when the Foundation announced the 2016 James Beard Award finalists at a ceremony in San Francisco. For the first time since 2012, Binkley was not named a finalist for the James Beard Best Chef: Southwest award.
Chef Charleen Badman of FnB in Scottsdale, who was also named a semifinalist for the Best Chef: Southwest award earlier this year, also failed to make the list.
The finalists for the award this year include:
- Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine (Houston)
- Steve McHugh of Cured (San Antonio)
- Hugo Ortega of Hugo's (Houston)
- Alex Seidel of Fruition (Denver)
- Justin Yu of Oxheart (Houston)
Valley-based restaurateur Sam Fox, who has been named a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category every year since 2008, and Pizzeria Bianco, which was up for the Outstanding Restaurant award, are also not finalists this year — a fact that leaves Arizona a total of zero James Beard award finalists in 2016.
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Though it's been several years since an Arizona chef or restaurant brought home a Beard award to the state — the last Arizona winner was Nobuo Fukuda, who won the Best Chef: Southwest award in 2007 — it still comes as a shock to see no Arizona talent on this year's finalist list. Then again, the Best Chef: Southwest category has become increasingly loaded with Texas names in recent years. In fact, in three of the four years Binkley made it to the finalist list, he was ultimately beat out by chefs in Austin and Houston.
The announcement of this year's Beard award finalists also comes on the heels of Binkley's announcement that he plans to close Binkley's Restaurant this fall, making it unlikely the chef will ever earn the coveted prize for his work at that particular restaurant.
For more information, visit the James Beard Foundation website.
The complete list of 2016 award finalists can be found on the Beard Foundation Twitter.