The finalists for the 2019 James Beard Foundation awards were announced Wednesday morning at an event in Houston. Unfortunately, Central Florida’s record of never having a semifinalist advance to the final ballot remains intact.
Central Florida restaurants and chefs were nominated in four categories this year, all national: Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant; Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa was on the long list for Outstanding Service; Rabii Saber of the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef; and James and Julie Petrakis were co-nominees as Outstanding Restaurateur.
The Petrakises have been nominated multiple times previously in the Best Chef: South category. For the past two years, no local chefs were singled out in the category, even as a semifinalist.
One interesting note in the Outstanding Restaurant category: Jaleo in Washington, D.C., is a finalist. The José Andrés helmed ThinkFoodGroup opened its fifth Jaleo, the group’s largest, at Disney Springs last week. With five locations, Jaleo can be considered a chain, so it’s worth noting that the Beard judges are willing to include a chain restaurant as one of the country’s best.
Jaleo’s fellow nominees are: Balthazar, New York; FIG. Charleston; Quince, San Francisco; and Zahav, Philadelphia. (FIG and Quince should team up against the others.)
In the Best Chef: South category that has proved so elusive for Central Florida’s deserving chefs, the finalists are: Wishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss.; Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, P.R.; Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans; Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans; and Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans.
The 2019 James Beard Awards Gala will be held in Chicago on Monday, May 6.
Here’s a link to the full list of award finalists.