The long list of semifinalists for the Beard awards is out today. And I do mean long. Many of the names included will clearly never win the national award or nomination. In some ways, that makes this list more meaningful. It lets those who shine on a local stage know they are recognized by the people in their communities who inform the judges, and by the regional judges themselves. The nominees will be announced March 24, with the awards ceremony taking place May 4.
It is great to see Alden & Harlow make the list for best new restaurant, and this is one I wouldn’t rule out to be a nominee. The other regional mention is Central Provisions in Portland, also a contender for a nomination.
It’s no surprise to see Joanne Chang make the list of possibles for outstanding baker, with local judges who are fervent fans. (I confess I admire Chang’s savory side more.) Clear Flour of Brookline is also on the list, and I think it is both a stronger candidate and unlikely to get a nomination. The folks from Hungry Ghost in Northampton are on here, too. They are always on here. Also: Standard Baking Co. in Portland. Maybe the one to beat is Jim Lahey of New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery. You probably know him as the “no-knead bread guy.”
I don’t think Boston’s bakeries shine on a national stage. I do think our bars are stellar and can compete. The Hawthorne is the only one to make the list. I think it deserves a nomination. Portland Hunt + Alpine Club is here, too.
Outstanding chef is an intimidating category. Ana Sortun of Oleana is the only semifinalist from New England. She’s up against the likes of Sean Brock, Andrew Carmellini, Traci Des Jardins, Suzanne Goin, Gabrielle Hamilton, Donald Link, Andy Ricker, Michael Solomonov, Marc Vetri… I can’t even go on. Those are just some of the big names. They all deserve it. I’m glad I don’t have to choose.
Outstanding pastry chef is another category where we can’t really compete. Maura Kilpatrick, also of Oleana, represents as a semifinalist. I wish we – Boston, everyone – valued pastry chefs more, so that we might know as many on this list by name as we do savory chefs.
Fore Street in Portland is the lone New England representative for outstanding restaurant. Nothing in Boston, nothing in Cambridge. To be eligible, restaurants must have been in operation for at least a decade. In 10 years, the Boston area ought to have more representatives on this list.
Garrett Harker is up for outstanding restaurateur, as is Michael Leviton. L’Espalier is our perpetual entrant in the realm of outstanding service. There are probably other restaurants we could recognize here, and other things for which L’Espalier might be recognized. Strip-T’s is a fun surprise addition for the service category.
Troquet, again, is our entrant for outstanding wine program. We have a lot of interesting wine programs in town; Bergamot comes to mind. For outstanding wine, spirits, or beer professional, Jim Koch of Boston Beer Co. and Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing Co. make appearances.
For rising star chef of the year: Max Hull and Irene Li of Mei Mei, and Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan (Brunswick, Maine) represent. Great to see them here. It’s amusing historically, and indicative going forward, to see Asian ingredients and flavors dominant. Heat and brightness on Boston’s horizon, I do declare. The rising star nominees have to be 30 or under. I never know who is 30 or under. Most of the people who deserve to be nominated are probably flying under the radar. The food media – mea culpa – need to do a better job focusing on sous chefs and others bringing the talent and shaping the food.
Righto. Onto the category most people care about most, where judges’ familiarity with big cities doesn’t have the same effect on the outcome.
Up for Best Chef: Northeast:
Karen Akunowicz, Myers + Chang, Boston
Tyler Anderson, Millwright’s, Simsbury, Conn.
Alex Crabb, Asta, Boston
Eric Gabrynowicz, Restaurant North, Armonk, N.Y.
Wesley Genovart, SoLo Farm & Table, South Londonderry, Vt.
Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden, Maine
Matt Louis, Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.
Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge
Tim Maslow, Ribelle, Brookline
Masa Miyake, Miyake, Portland, Maine
Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain, Camden, Maine
Michael Pagliarini, Giulia, Cambridge
Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville
Guy Reuge, Mirabelle, Stony Brook, N.Y.
Art Rogers, Lento, Rochester, N.Y.
Champe Speidel, Persimmon, Bristol, R.I.
Bill Taibe, Le Farm, Westport, Conn.
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, Maine
Joel Viehland, Community Table, Washington, Conn.
Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, Vt.
Interesting to see Scelfo not on this list after his best new restaurant recognition. I’m thrilled to see Akunowicz here. Myers + Chang just keeps getting better. And Crabb’s Asta is one of my favorite places for truly inventive courses that are as delicious as they are interesting. Piuma’s Sarma is totally fantastic and hit the ground running. It might be Maiden’s year, though, and he deserves it. They all do.
Seriously, what a great list. Among other things, Nakjaroen makes the most addictive hot sauce I’ve had in recent memory. I wouldn’t rule out the folks from Eventide in Portland. I wouldn’t rule out anyone.
For the nominees in all categories, including Best Chef for other regions, here is the complete list of semifinalists .