Restaurant News

The 2017 James Beard Award Finalists Are In — And Arizona Gets No Love

Pavle Milic, the front of house manager and beverage director at FnB in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale restaurant received a semifinalist nomination last month from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Wine Program.
Pavle Milic, the front of house manager and beverage director at FnB in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale restaurant received a semifinalist nomination last month from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Wine Program. Evie Carpenter
Last month, we learned that six Arizona chefs and restaurants were named as semifinalists for the 2017 James Beard Awards. The Beard Awards, often described as the "Oscars of the food world," are widely regarded as the highest culinary honor available to restaurants, chefs, and other culinary professionals in the U.S.

Today in Los Angeles, the Beard Foundation announced its finalists for 2017.

You might remember that Arizona chefs and restaurants were completely shut out of the Beard Awards by this point in the award season last year.

In 2017, Arizona has a grand total of zero James Beard award finalists — again.

Three Arizona chefs were named as semifinalists for the Best Chef: Southwest award last month, including chef Charleen Badman of FnB in Scottsdale; Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe fame (nominated for her work at Barrio Urbano, one of the chef's three Phoenix restaurants); and Jeff Smedstad of the acclaimed Elote Cafe in Sedona.

All three failed to make the short list for 2017 Best Chef: Southwest. The Southwest region consists of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

The finalists in the Southwest category this year include:
  • Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio
  • Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin
  • Martín Rios, Restaurant Martín, Santa Fe
  • Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
  • Steve Redzikowski, Acorn, Denver
  • Jianyun Ye, Mala Sichuan Bistro, Houston
The last Phoenix-area chef to win the Best Chef: Southwest prize was Nobuo Fukuda in 2007. Texas-area chefs and restaurants have dominated the Southwest category in recent years, and this year is no exception.

Other Arizona semifinalists this year included Sam Fox, a semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur, which recognizes "a working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship." Fox has been named a semifinalist in the category every year since 2008, but failed to make the short list this year.

Pizzeria Bianco, a semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurant, was also not a finalist this year.

FnB in Scottsdale, which last month earned a semifinalist nod in the Outstanding Wine Program category, did not make the short list, either.

Winners will be announced at the 2017 James Beard Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 1.

For more information on the Beard Awards, visit the James Beard Foundation website. You can also view a complete list of 2017 finalists on the Beard Foundation Twitter.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Escárcega was Phoenix New Times' food critic.