The James Beard Foundation released its list of restaurant and chef semi-finalists this morning. And though we’ll probably never see the spirited Red Medicine make the cut (considering they booted a member of the judge’s panel), this year L.A. seems to have a little to cry about as some of its most engaging chefs are nominated among a number of categories. Bernhard Mairinger’s new Beverly Hills Austrian, BierBeisl, appears to be the major breakout city this year, nominated in the “Best New Restaurant” category, and where the chef-owner is also found vying for a “Rising Star Chef of the Year” win, a category that makes room for Kris Yenbamroong of Night+Market, as well. Andrew Kirchsner’s Tar & Roses is also nominated for “Best New Restaurant,” while Rivera and The Varnish are being credited for their excellent bar programs. Elsewhere, familiar and deserving faces are again being bandied about, suggesting the Beard board might still need to update their local knowledge just a little bit.
Past winners Nancy Silverton and Suzanne Goin are both sharing space on the “Outstanding Chef” tier, with Melisse gracing the “Outstanding Restaurant” list. L.A.’s biggest moment this year, as it should be, is in dominating a larger portion of the “Best Chef: West” semifinalists category, with Michael Cimarusti and Providence back in the saddle, alongside David Le Fevre for his fantastic new Manhattan Beach Post, artistic Nuevo Latino cuisine genius John Sedlar at Rivera, Kirschner again for Tar & Roses, the two-headed chef from Animal, and Ricardo Zarate for Mo-Chica completing the who’s who collection of exciting L.A. chefs.
Josef Centeno, as expected, also fills out this category, garnering more praise for Baco Mercat in a post-opening period that’s increasingly found it gracing critic’s lists of favorites. In fact, Centeno has twice the reason to celebrate today, considering Alan Richman’s newly released “The 12 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2013” finds him holding down the number ten-spot in GQ.
Overall, it seems to be a more West Coast savvy semi-finalist selection this year that hopefully gives the city reason to celebrate its wealth of engaging dining options come March 18, when the finalists are announced. Of course, we’d really love to know what you think of the picks in our comments.