James Beard Foundation Announces 2016 Semifinalists

Chef Susan Regis and Shepard, Oleana, Myers + Chang chef Karen Akunowicz, and others represent New England well.
James Beard Award boston

(L to R) Alden & Harlow chef/owner Michael Scelfo, Myers + Chang chef Karen Akunowicz, and Tim Maslow of Strip-T’s.

The nominees are in for this year’s class of James Beard Foundation award recipients, and greater Boston and New England are holding their own. Shepard, the fiery Cambridge spot from Susan Regis (also a Best Chef: Northeast contender) and René Becker, is in the running for this year’s Best New Restaurant, along with the Honey Paw, a noodle shop north of us in Portland, Maine. Todd Maul’s innovative bar program at Café ArtScience is singled out, and so is the bar at Row 34—likely for Megan Parker-Gray’s venerable beer list, as the Fort Point spot doesn’t serve liquor.

Maybe Watertown sandwich shop-cum-izakaya Strip-T’s will beat out fine dining mainstay L’Espalier this year in the realm of Outstanding Service? Considering the year Mei Mei has had, maybe 2016 is Rising Star Chef of the Year nominee Irene Li’s? Oleana’s Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick again hold it down as Outstanding Chef and Pasty Chef contenders, respectively; and Garrett Harker is up for Best Restaurateur once again. Other chefs to watch: Best Chef: Northeast candidates like Myers + Chang’s Karen Akunowicz, and Cassie Piuma at Sarma, both for the second year in a row; plus Regis, Michael Scelfo of Alden & Harlow, and Philip Tang of Banyan Bar + Refuge.

The James Beard Foundation will announce the finalists in mid-March, and the Restaurant & Chef Gala happens in Chicago in May. Boston (and beyond) restaurateur Ming Tsai is hosting the organization’s Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards in New York City in April.

The full list of semifinalists is now online, and the New England recipients are singled out below.

Best New Restaurant

  • Shepard, Cambridge, MA
  • The Honey Paw, Portland, ME

Outstanding Baker

  • Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery + Café, Boston
  • Cheryl Maffei and Jonathan Stevens, Hungry Ghost Bread, Northampton, MA

Outstanding Bar Program

  • Café ArtScience, Cambridge, MA
  • Row 34, Boston

Outstanding Chef

  • Ana Sortun, Oleana, Cambridge, MA

Outstanding Pastry Chef

  • Maura Kilpatrick, Oleana, Cambridge, MA

Oustanding Restaurant

  • Fore Street, Portland, ME

Outstanding Restaurteur

  • Garrett Harker, Boston (Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Row 34, The Hawthorne, Branch Line)

Outstanding Service

  • L’Espalier, Boston
  • Strip-T’s, Watertown, MA

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or BeerProfessional

  • Jim Koch, The Boston Beer Company, Boston
  • Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME

Rising Star Chef of the Year

  • Irene Li, Mei Mei, Boston
  • Marc Sheehan, Loyal Nine, Cambridge, MA
  • Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan, Brunswick, ME

Best Chef: Northeast

Greater Boston nominees:

  • Karen Akunowicz, Myers + Chang, Boston
  • Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, MA
  • Susan Regis, Shepard, Cambridge, MA
  • Michael Scelfo, Alden & Harlow, Cambridge, MA
  • Philip Tang, Banyan Bar + Refuge, Boston

Outside greater Boston:

  • Unmi Abkin, Coco & The Cellar Bar, Easthampton, MA
  • Tyler Anderson, Millwright’s Restaurant, Simsbury, CT
  • Erin French, The Lost Kitchen, Freedom, ME
  • Eric Gabrynowicz, Restaurant North, Armonk, NY
  • Wesley Genovart, SoLo Farm & Table, South Londonderry, VT
  • Brian Hill, Francine, Camden, ME
  • Aaron Josinsky, Misery Loves Co., Winooski, VT
  • Matt Louis, Moxy Restaurant, Portsmouth, NH
  • Dan Magill, Arethusa al tavolo, Bantam, CT
  • Zak Pelaccio, Fish & Game, Hudson, NY
  • Guy Reuge, Mirabelle, Stony Brook, NY
  • Champe Speidel, Persimmon, Bristol, RI
  • Keiko Suzuki Steinberger, Suzuki’s Sushi Bar, Rockland, ME
  • Derek Wagner, Nick’s on Broadway, Providence
  • Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME

Jacqueline Cain Associate Food Editor at Boston Magazine jcain@bostonmagazine.com