Womp-womp. We're getting used to this: the rush of excitement when the James Beard Foundation announces the long list of chefs being considered as nominees for the annual awards, and it includes talented Orlandoans; and the letdown when the short list comes out, and it ... doesn't.
Last month, the JBF announced the Best Chef: South semifinalists
, and there were four chefs from three Orlando restaurants on it – Kathleen Blake of the Rusty Spoon, Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s, and James and Julie Petrakis for the Ravenous Pig – along with a few great Miami chefs. But today, the finalists
came out, and none of our guys made the cut. Oh well ... there's always next year.
Up to now, no Central Florida Chef has actually won the category, though Norman Van Aken, now a local, won it for his Miami restaurant in 1997. Below, the finalists for Best Chef: South in the 2016 JBF Awards.
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR)
- Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS
- Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans
- Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR
- Slade Rushing, Brennan's, New Orleans
- Isaac Toups, Toups' Meatery, New Orleans