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11 Philadelphia-area chefs, restaurants are James Beard Awards semifinalists for 2020

Chef Nicholas Elmi and Thai concept Kalaya are among 11 Philadelphia-area chefs and restaurants named as semifinalists for 2020 James Beard Awards, the national competition likened to the Oscars of the food and beverage world.

Chef Nicholas Elmi and Thai concept Kalaya are among 11 Philadelphia-area chefs and restaurants named as semifinalists for 2020 James Beard Awards, the national competition likened to the Oscars of the food and beverage world.

The James Beard Foundation released the list of standouts across 23 restaurant and chef award categories on Wednesday morning. The honors continue to propel Philadelphia’s thriving culinary scene, where James Beard Awards nominations and wins are a part of the the industry’s DNA.

Kalaya, a Thai eatery that opened last year in South Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood, is in the running for Best New Restaurant in the country. Tova du Plessis of Essen Bakery, a Jewish-style bakery in Passyunk Square, is a semifinalist for Outstanding Baker in the U.S.

The Tapioca dumplings at Kalaya in South Philadelphia.

Marc Vetri of Vetri Cucina clocked in as semifinalist for Outstanding Chef. Cookie Till, who runs Jersey Shore’s popular Steve and Cookie’s in Margate and Ventnor No. 7311, is vying for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Le Caveau, a French wine bar above the Good King Tavern in Bella Vista, is a semifinalist for Outstanding Wine Program. Jean Broillet IV of Tired Hands Brewing Co. in Ardmore also made the list in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer category.

Jesse Ito of Royal Izakaya in Queen Village is a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

This year’s semifinalists in the Best Chef category are reminiscent of the 2019 awards cycle. The four Philadelphia-area culinary stars named as contenders in the Mid-Atlantic region, composed of Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, each qualified as semifinalists last year.

Joey Baldino of Zeppoli in Collingswood, Nicholas Elmi of Laurel, Rich Landau of Vedge and Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa cracked the list of 20 semifinalists in the highly revered category.

South Philadelphian Joey Baldino also owns Italian concept Palizzi Social Club in Passyunk Square, while chef-owner Nicholas Elmi is behind Royal Boucherie and cocktail bar In the Valley. In 2019, Martinez and Landau were both named finalists in the category before ultimately losing to Tom Cunanan of Bad Saint in Washington, D.C. The year prior, South Philly Barbacoa was featured on the fifth season of the award-winning documentary series “Chef’s Table.”

Just outside of Greater Philadelphia, the Horse Inn in Lancaster also qualified as a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category, while farm-to-table American concept Bolete in Bethlehem is in the running for Outstanding Restaurant.

Final nominees for all James Beard Awards categories will be announced March 25 in partnership with Visit Philadelphia at an event at The Barnes Foundation. The announcement, co-hosted by Jeff Guaracino, CEO of Visit Philadelphia, and Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, will be livestreamed. Winners in the restaurant and chef and restaurant design categories will be announced May 4 in Chicago.

By Laura Smythe  – Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal

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