Monday night, Arizona chef Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant in Cave Creek failed to take home the coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest. The James Beard Foundation announced the winners of the annual culinary accolades, often referred to as the Oscars of the restaurant industry, at a ceremony held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Though Binkley's made the short list of award finalists for the last four years in a row, the Best Chef Southwest recognition went to first-time nominee Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ in Austin. In 2014, Binkley lost to Houston chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly.
In February, the foundation released a long list of award semifinalists that included four Arizona chefs and restaurateurs. Along with Binkley, chef Charleen Badman of FnB restaurant in Scottsdale received a nod for the regional top chef award, while Scottsdale-based restaurateur Sam Fox was named a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category. Phoenix chef Chris Bianco's Pizzeria Bianco received a nomination for Outstanding Restaurant.
In March, the foundation narrowed the field down to a short list of finalists in each category; Binkley was the only Arizonan to make the cut.
The other finalists in the Best Chef Southwest category included Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin, Hugo Ortega of Hugo's in Houston, Justin Yu of Oxheart in Houston, Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, and Martín Rios of Restaurant Martín in Santa Fe. Gilmore, Ortega, and Yu were also finalists with Binkley in 2014.
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Nine Arizona chefs have won the Best Chef Southwest award in the past, most recently in 2007, when chef Nobuo Fukuda took home the win for his work at Sea Saw.
Other 2015 James Beard Award winners included Bâtard (NYC) for Best New Restaurant, The Violet Hour (Chicago) for Outstanding Bar Program, chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern (NYC) for Outstanding Chef, and Christina Tosi of Momofuku (NYC) for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Chef Dan Barber's restaurant Bill Hill at Stone Barns won the award for Outstanding Restaurant and Donnie Madia of Chicago's One Off Hospitality Group (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican, and others) took the Oustanding Restaurateur prize.
For the complete list of winners check the James Beard Foundation website.