Beard Finalists Exclude Central Florida Nominees. Again.

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Finalists for the James Beard Foundation's culinary awards were announced Tuesday morning in New York. Central Florida was again brushed over.

Nominees for the South region, which includes Florida, are Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans; Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR; Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS; Slade Rushing, Brennan's, New Orleans; and Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans.

The list of 20 semifinalists had included Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert's; Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon; Hari Pulapaka, Cress; and James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig. All have been previous semifinalists, Hunnel the most frequently. No Central Florida chefs have ever advanced to the finals. (Norman Van Aken and Melissa Kelly, who both have restaurants in Orlando, won best chef awards for restaurants outside the area.)

Tampa's Bern's Steakhouse is nominated for an Outstanding Wine Program award.

For the first time in the awards' 25 year history, the winners will be announced outside of New York, at a black-tie ceremony at Chicago's Lyric Opera, Monday, May 4.

The full list of finalists can be viewed at JamesBeard.org. (The list will publish after the announcement ceremony, which is still going on at this moment.)

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