The below article discusses 2015 James Beard Award semifinilists. For information about 2016's nominees, check out our more recent 2016 blog post!
Yesterday, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its 2015 restaurant and chef awards -- and Pittsburgh is represented in four different categories!
According to the James Beard Foundation website, the James Beard Awards (JBA) are "known as the Oscars of the food world", and are the "highest honor for food and beverage professionals in America". The awards “cover all aspects of the industry: chefs and restaurateurs, cookbook authors and food journalists, restaurant designers and architects, and more." Established in 1990, the 2015 awards celebrate the 25th anniversary of recognizing the best of the national culinary landscape.
So, how did Pittsburgh fare?
Butcher and the Rye – Outstanding Bar Program
The Outstanding Bar Program category was created in 2012 and Bucher and the Rye was the first Pittsburgh bar to receive a nomination! Boasting over 350 bourbons and with two bar areas to choose from (with each providing different styles of drinks and bartending), we're not surprised that they were the first to be nominated. We'd actually be surprised if they don't win!
Tom Baron and Bill Fuller of Big Burrito Group – Outstanding Restaurateur
With 6 uniquely styled restaurants (Casbah, Eleven, Kaya, Mad Mex, Soba, and Umi) under their belts, it seems like Tom and Bill can do no wrong. These guys do it all – from Asian to Mexican, Caribbean to Mediterranean, their restaurants provide both locally sourced ingredients as well as specialty fish flown in from across the world. The Big Burrito Group is a lesson in diversity that brings the utmost quality to the Pittsburgh food scene.
Jamilka Borges, Bar Marco – Rising Star of the Year
If you haven’t heard of Jamilka, then head over to Bar Marco and experience some of her innovative cuisine. Originally from Puerto Rico, she started creating delicious meals with her mother at a young age. She moved to Pittsburgh 8 years ago for school and fell in love with the city, like many of us do. In an interview with Jamilka she says, "I love how friendly and laid back the city is... it's so easy to live here and there's always something to do."
Justin Severino, Cure – Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Imagine an urban, neighborhood restaurant with a small menu focused on cooking seasonal, local food. Now imagine the chef of this restaurant is a skilled animal butcher who is dedicated to supporting ethical farming practices, humane animal husbandry, sustainability and traditional cooking techniques -- you have just envisioned Justin Severino, chef at Cure. A self-proclaimed "reformed vegetarian", Justin is on the forefront of the farm fresh food movement in Pittsburgh.
So, what happens now?
Well, the semifinalists have been culled from 35,000 initial entries, and will now move on to a voting body. After the judges cast their votes, the five semifinalists with the highest number of votes in each category become the finalists who will be announced on March 24. Stay tuned!
Best of luck to all of you – this honor is deserved and you make us proud!