Beard Foundation announces semifinalists for 2019 awards with several Central Florida names, but none for Best Chef

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The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced the semifinalists for its 2019 chef and restaurant awards. After a complete snub in 2018, Central Florida is represented in four categories, though not for Best Chef in the South region.

Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant, a category the encompasses the nation.

Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is on the list for Outstanding Service award.

Rabii Saber of the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

And James and Julie Petrakis are co-nominees as Outstanding Restaurateur, a new category for them. They had previously been nominated — again as a team — in the Best Chef South category.

The Best Chef South category includes Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Louisiana (or to be more specific, New Orleans). For the second consecutive year, no Central Florida chefs made the list of 20 semifinalist.

Florida is represented in the Best Chef category by: Jeannie Pierola, Edison: Food+Drink Lab, Tampa; Melissa Donahue-Talmage, Sweet Melissa’s Café, Sanibel; Lindsay Autry, The Regional Kitchen & Public House, West Palm Beach; Clay Conley, Buccan, Palm Beach; Brad Kilgore, Alter, Miami; and Niven Patel, Ghee Indian Kitchen, Miami.

See the full list of nominees here.

Before last year, Central Florida chefs were frequently listed on the semifinals ballot, though none has ever progressed to the finals.

The finalists will be announced on March 27 in Houston. The annual James Beard Award Gala will be Monday, May 6, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.