Nina Compton (above) of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, won the Best Chef: South title at the James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony in Chicago Monday night. JuneBaby, Seattle, was named Best New Restaurant (we'll see how it is when it's a JuneTeenager). Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham was named Outstanding Restaurant of the year and its pastry chef, Dolester Miles, was also cited.
The South region theoretically also includes Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Puerto Rico, as well as Florida. But over the last decade the awards have gone to a New Orleans chef a little too Big Easily. Compton's fellow nominees in the region were: Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS; Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR; Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans; Niven Patel, Ghee Indian Kitchen, Miami; Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans.
This year was the first in many that did not include any Central Florida chefs on even the preliminary ballot. No local chef has ever made it to the finals. (Norman Van Aken and Melissa Perry both won for restaurants out of the area before opening venues in Central Florida.)