James Beard Finally Acknowledges Philly’s Little Guys (and Gals) for its 2017 Semifinalists List

This year, 20 area restaurants, chefs and restaurateurs made the cut.

Essen Bakery (Oustanding Baker semifinalist) - Facebook

Essen Bakery (Outstanding Baker semifinalist) – Facebook

This story has been updated.

The almighty James Beard Awards Committee rarely ever left its comfort-zone when it came down to Philadelphia restaurants. Year after year, it was always Philly’s ultra-notable restaurants and chef names that made the cut — Zahav, Vedge, Vernick, Fork; Vetri, Starr, Solomonov — with the occasional nod to any Philly talent considered under-the-radar on the national scale, e.g. Joe CicalaKonstantinos PitsillidesAndre Chin and Amanda Eap (Artisan Boulanger Patissier). That’s not to say those big-name nominations weren’t deserved — they absolutely were — it’s just that there’s so much more to this city than Zahav and Marc Vetri. The rest of the country just isn’t aware.

But for whatever reason, this year, Philly-area chefs and restaurants, both big and small, caught the committee’s attention. Check out who’s repping Philly in 2017:

Best New Restaurant

  • Saté Kampar

Outstanding Baker

  • Tova du Plessis, Essen Bakery
  • Elizabeth Degener, Enfin Farms (Cape May, NJ)

Outstanding Bar Program

  • Martha

Outstanding Chef

  • Michael Solomonov

Outstanding Pastry Chef

  • Pat O’Malley, Hungry Pigeon

Outstanding Restaurant

  • Sagami, (Collingswood, NJ)

Outstanding Restaurateur

  • Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants
  • Ellen Yin, High Street Hospitality Group

Outstanding Service

  • Zahav

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional

  • Herman C. Mihalich and John S. Cooper, Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey (Bristol, PA)
  • Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, DE)

Rising Star Chef of the Year

  • Camille Cogswell, Zahav
  • Jesse Ito, Royal Izakaya

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic

  • Nicholas Elmi, Laurel
  • Rich Landau, Vedge
  • Cristina Martinez and Benjamin Miller, South Philly Barbacoa
  • Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink
  • Joey Baldino, Zeppoli
  • Scott Anderson, Elements, Princeton, NJ

And kudos to the women of the industry: In 2015  and 2016, only two Philadelphia women (if you include woman-owned restaurants) were recognized for their talents by the James Beard board. This year? Saté Kampar (owned by Ange Branca), Tova du Plessis, Elizabeth Degener, Ellen Yin, Camille Cogsewell, and Cristina Martinez bring the total up to six. Whether that’s something representative of Philly’s scene as a whole, or just a more focused effort by James Beard to expose the good work done by millions of women-run businesses and kitchens around the country, the fact remains that Philly’s industry is on the right side of history.

Here’s the complete list. Finalists are announced March 15th and winners are announced Tuesday, April 25th.

Meet the 2017 Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists [James Beard]