Restaurant News

More Than a Dozen Phoenix Chefs Are Nominated for 2020 James Beard Awards

Shinbay Executive Chef Shinji Kurita.
Shinbay Executive Chef Shinji Kurita. Jackie Mercandetti Photo
Today, the James Beard Foundation announced semifinalist nominees for its 2020 awards. These awards are seen as some of the highest honors in the food world. And damn, the Phoenix area scored a lot of nominations this year. We did so well that I'm just going to list them:

Best New Restaurant: Vecina

Outstanding Bar Program: Little Rituals

Outstanding Chef: Nobuo Fukuda of Nobuo at Teeter House

Outstanding Hospitality: Kai Restaurant (Gila River Indian Community)

Outstanding Restaurant: Pizzeria Bianco

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Country Velador, SuperChunk Sweets & Treats (Scottsdale)

Outstanding Restaurateur: Mike Mastro and Jeff Mastro, Prime Steak Concepts (Dominick’s Steakhouse, Steak 44, Ocean 44)

Outstanding Wine Program: FnB (Scottsdale)

Rising Star Chef of the Year: Cassie Shortino, Tratto

click to enlarge Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café Gran Reserva and Barrio Cafe. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café Gran Reserva and Barrio Cafe.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Best Chef, Southwest: Ryan Swanson, Kai; Stephen Jones, the Larder + the Delta; Chrysa Robertson, Rancho Pinot; Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café Gran Reserva; Samantha Sanz, Talavera; Shinji Kurita, Shinbay Omakase Room; Danielle Leoni, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar; Bernie Kantak, Citizen Public House

That's a whopping 17 nominations in 10 categories.

Again, this is an absolute deluge of nominees. The sharp increase is due party to redistricting of the "Southwest" region this year, which has seen Texas and its many great food cities moved to another category. But it's also simply due to the level of food and drink we have here.

You probably remember that Charleen Badman of FnB won Best Chef: Southwest in 2019. FnB scooped yet another nomination. Her win last year and this flood of nominations reflect what people who eat and drink here know: Some amazing things are happening in the desert.

The list of semifinalist nominees covers a stunning range of ground in the Valley, from bars to pizza, sushi to Jamaican, progressive Mexican to progressive Southern, north Scottsdale to the Gila River Indian Community.

Cheers to these local chefs, beverage artisans, hospitality masters, and our boss food scene. 
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy