2017 Beard Semifinalists Include 2 Area Chefs

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Kathleen BlakeKathleen Blake and Brandon McGlamery are Central Florida’s only nominees for a Best Chef award from the James Beard Foundation in the South region. The two were named with 18 others on the preliminary ballot mailed to chefs Wednesday.

Blake, the chef and owner of the Rusty Spoon in downtown, has been nominated 4 times. No Central Florida chef has ever advanced to the final ballot. McGlamery, who has also been nominated previously, is the executive chef for Luma on Park, Prato in Winter Park and the newly opened Luke’s Kitchen + Bar in Maitland. He is nominated for his work at Luma.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Blake about her fourth nomination. “It’s a great honor.”

Florida chefs in the South region compete with chefs from Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico. Historically, Louisiana — and New Orleans specifically — dominates the region.

“We’re in stiff competition with New Orleans,” Blake said. “I’m in downtown Orlando and I don’t campaign [for the Beard Award] and I don’t have a marketing team.” She said it’s a privilege to be nominated.

Judges, primarily food journalists and critics from around the country, will select up to five names from each category. Judges may vote for any chef whose food they have eaten or any restaurant they’ve visited regardless of their geographic designation. The final ballot, whittled down to five finalists in each category, will be announced March 15. The winners will be named in a black-tie gala ceremony on May 1.

Other nominees in the South region are:

Best Chef: South

Ferrell Alvarez, Rooster & the Till, Tampa, FL

David Bancroft, Acre, Auburn, AL

Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS

Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon, Orlando, FL

Bill Briand, Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina, Orange Beach, AL

Nina Compton, Compère Lapin, New Orleans

Clay Conley, Buccan, Palm Beach, FL

Cole Ellis, Delta Meat Market, Cleveland, MS

Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR

Michael Gulotta, MoPho, New Orleans

Timothy Hontzas, Johnny’s Restaurant, Homewood, AL

Deme Lomas, Niu Kitchen, Miami

Matthew McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, AR

Rob McDaniel, SpringHouse, Alexander City, AL

Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park, Winter Park, FL

Christopher Ponte, Café Ponte, Clearwater, FL

Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans

Michael Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig, Coquette, New Orleans

Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans

Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, New Orleans

The full list of semifinalists can be seen here.