The James Beard Foundation has released the list of 2022 award semifinalists, and there are a number of New Orleans chefs and restaurants included.
In the category “outstanding restaurant,” Brennan’s got a nod. Serigne Mbaye, who operates the Senegalese popup Dakar Nola, was nominated for the “emerging chef” award.
Two restaurants were are in the running for “best new restaurant”: Haitian restaurant Fritai and Lengua Madre, where chef Ana Castro is cooking innovative Mexican cuisine. The Avenue Pub made the list in “bar program.”
Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith of Saint-Germain, Hao Gong of LUVI, Melissa M. Martin of Mosquito Supper Club, Michael Nelson of GW Fins, Isaac Toups of Toups Meatery and Allison Richard of High Hat Café were all nominated for “best chef: South.”
That so many of our chefs and restaurants were recognized is great, though I’m not sure why we missed out on categories like “outstanding hospitality,” “outstanding wine program” and both “baker” and “pastry chef”?
Only one award is given in each category but there’s a saying, and I believe it’s true: “it’s an honor just to be nominated.” Any of these folks could win the award and deserve it. I trust that everyone who lives in New Orleans has enough confidence in our food culture to know that while being lauded is great, it’s not why people enter the industry, and the quality of food on everywhere in New Orleans isn’t necessarily reflected by the number of Beard awards bestowed on our eateries and certainly not by the lack of a Michelin starred restaurant.
I find it fascinating that the nominations have mostly gone to more casual restaurants and I love the diversity of cuisines on display. I have no idea how the awards will shake out when the finalists are announced on March 16, but I’ll be happy if any of the New Orleans chefs and/or restaurants make it.
I hope you’re all enjoying Carnival, and that we have good weather this weekend.