Eater just released a series of infographics showing the gender of finalists and semifinalists for the 2014 James Beard Awards. We aren't shocked that finalists are 72 percent male, but, more interestingly, the 27 percent female showing on the finalist list is the highest percentage since 2009. (The other 1% is for chef teams that include men and women) Though Phoenix's female semifinalists, which included FnB's Charleen Badman and Barrio Cafe's Silvana Salcido Esparza, didn't make it to the finalist round, their inclusion in nominations is indicative of a trend going more toward honoring female chefs in the James Beard Awards.
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In other not surprising news, the only category female chefs dominated in was the pastry chef category, which nationally had women as 65 percent of the semifinalists and an overwhelming 80 percent of the finalists for this year. However, in the outstanding chef category, which is pretty much the crème de la crème of JBAs, female chef finalists were 11 percent higher than the average of those nominated in that category over the last five years.
While we're sad Esparza and Badman won't be representing our region for Best Chef Southwest, the overall outlook on the category for this year is pretty grim for women chefs in general. Only 15 percent of the semifinalists in the category were women with a completely depressing 100 percent of finalists being male for 2014. While the five-year average is 20 percent female for the Southwest, 0 percent this year will likely knock it down for the future.
Maybe Suzanne Goin or Nancy Silverton, both out of Los Angeles, can lock down the Outstanding Chef award and put women on the map in a big way for the 2014 James Beard Awards. Though we're still rooting for Kevin Binkley for Best Chef Southwest.