Chefs

Here Are the 2019 James Beard Award Semifinalists from Boston and New England

Somerville hotspot Celeste, top chef Tiffani Faison, Haley.Henry Wine Bar, and more local culinary talent is nominated.


2019 James Beard Award semifinalists from Boston

Tiffani Faison photo by Mik Diskin for Fool’s Errand / Seizi Imura at Cafe Sushi photo by Toan Trinh for 50 Best Restaurants / Carl Dooley at the Table at Season to Taste photo by Melissa Ostrow

Chefs, restaurant teams, beverage pros, and more culinary talent is celebrating around the country today for being considered for the “Oscars of the Food World.” Ahead of the 29th annual James Beard Awards coming up this spring, the Beard foundation has named dozens of semifinalists in categories like Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Restaurant, and regional Best Chefs—including some familiar names from Boston, Maine, elsewhere in New England.

Among the local James Beard award nominees for 2019 are Outstanding Restaurant O Ya (our own No. 2 restaurant in Boston), and Portland, Maine, standby, Fore Street. Two restaurants listed among Boston magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2018 are in contention for that JBF category: Celeste, Somerville’s Peruvian project born of a pop-up by chef JuanMa Calderón and general manager Maria Rondeau; and the Seaport’s Chickadee, from homegrown hospitality pros Ted Kilpatrick and chef John da Silva.

Haley.Henry puts Boston’s blossoming, lady-led natural wine scene on the national map with a nomination for Best Wine Program; while Vermont winemaker Deirdre Heekin of La Garagista is once against contending for Outstanding Wine Producer. Woburn destination the Baldwin Bar continues to earn acclaim; and Allagash Brewing founder Rob Tod is once again recognized.

Mei Mei chef-owner Irene Li’s star is apparently still rising in the eyes of the JBF judges—she is nominated in that category again after several years in a row. Menton pastry chef Giselle Miller is also a Rising Star contender. Oleana chef Ana Sortun is New Engand’s only Outstanding Chef semifinalist this year.

Among some new names in 2019 are several Best Chef: Northeast contenders, including chef Carl Dooley, the affable Top Chef alum who helms the four-star Table at Season to Taste; David Vargas of Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, N.H.; and co-chefs Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell of the beloved Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine. The venerable Tiffani Faison (who added Fool’s Errand to her Fenway restaurant group this year), Café Sushi star Seizi Imura, and more folks behind Boston’s best restaurants are also on the list.

Check out all the New England semifinalists below, and see the James Beard Foundation’s full list here.

On Wednesday, March 27, five final nominees will be announced in each category from Houston, by James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega. The annual awards gala is Monday, May 6, in Chicago, and will also feature awards for Restaurant Design categories, and special achievement awards like America’s Classics.

2019 James Beard Awards Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists from Boston and New England

Best New Restaurant
A restaurant opened in 2018 that already demonstrates excellence in cuisine and hospitality, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.

  • Celeste, Somerville, MA
  • Chickadee, Boston

Outstanding Baker
A pastry chef or baker who demonstrates exceptional skill, integrity, and character in the preparation of desserts, pastries, or breads served in a retail bakery. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.

  • Maura Kilpatrick, Sofra Bakery and Café, Cambridge, MA
  • Alison Pray, Standard Baking Co., Portland, ME

Outstanding Bar Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates exceptional care and skill in the selection, preparation, and serving of cocktails, spirits, and/or beer.

  • The Baldwin Bar, Woburn, MA

Outstanding Chef
A chef who sets high culinary standards and who has served as a positive example for other food professionals. Must have been working as a chef for the past five years.

  • Ana Sortun, Oleana, Cambridge, MA

Outstanding Pastry Chef
A pastry chef or baker who demonstrates exceptional skill, integrity, and character in the preparation of desserts, pastries, or breads served in a restaurant. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.

  • Whang Suh, Hen & Heifer, Guilford, CT

Outstanding Restaurant
A restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, service, and operations. Must have been in business 10 or more consecutive years.

  • Fore Street, Portland, ME
  • O Ya, Boston

Outstanding Restaurateur
A restaurateur who demonstrates creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operations. Must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Must not have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.

  • Ken Oringer, Boston (Little Donkey, Toro, Uni, and others)

Outstanding Service
A restaurant in operation for five or more years that demonstrates consistency and exceptional thoughtfulness in hospitality and service.

  • Back Bay Grill, Portland, ME

Outstanding Wine Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in wine service through a carefully considered wine list and a well-informed approach to helping customers choose and drink wine.

  • The Butcher Shop, Boston
  • haley.henry, Boston

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer
A beer, wine, or spirits producer who demonstrates consistency and exceptional skill in his or her craft.

  • Deirdre Heekin, La Garagista, Bethel, VT
  • Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME

Rising Star Chef of the Year
A chef age 30 or younger who displays exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.

  • Irene Li, Mei Mei, Boston
  • Giselle Miller, Menton, Boston

Best Chef: Northeast (New England and NY State)
Chefs who set high culinary standards and also demonstrate integrity and admirable leadership skills in their respective regions. A nominee may be from any kind of dining establishment but must have been working as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years spent in the region.

  • Unmi Abkin, Coco & The Cellar Bar, Easthampton, MA
  • Tyler Anderson, Millwright’s, Simsbury, CT
  • Hannah Black and Carla Perez-Gallardo, Lil’ Deb’s Oasis, Hudson, NY
  • Cara Chigazola-Tobin, Honey Road, Burlington, VT
  • Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell, Palace Diner, Biddeford, ME
  • Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House, North Yarmouth, ME
  • Vien Dobui, Cong Tu Bot, Portland, ME
  • Carl Dooley, The Table at Season to Taste, Cambridge, MA
  • Tiffani Faison, Tiger Mama, Boston
  • Erin French, The Lost Kitchen, Freedom, ME
  • Victor Parra Gonzalez, Las Puertas, Buffalo, NY
  • Seizi Imura, Cafe Sushi, Cambridge, MA
  • Evan Mallett, Black Trumpet, Portsmouth, NH
  • James Mark, North, Providence
  • Tony Messina, Uni, Boston
  • Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, MA
  • Keiko Suzuki Steinberger, Suzuki’s Sushi Bar, Rockland, ME
  • Benjamin Sukle, Oberlin, Providence, RI
  • Peter Ungár, Tasting Counter, Somerville, MA
  • David Vargas, Vida Cantina, Portsmouth, NH