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
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
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.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.