Alabama chefs and bar named James Beard semifinalists for 2019

Alabama chefs and bar named James Beard semifinalists for 2019
James Beard semifinalists are (clockwise upper left) Bill Briand, Timothy Hontzas, The Atomic Lounge and David Bancroft. (file)

Some familiar names in Alabama’s culinary world are semifinalists for the 2019 James Beard Awards, announced Wednesday morning by the James Beard Foundation.

Birmingham’s The Atomic Lounge for the second year in a row is a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, one of 20 across the country to make the cut. The Outstanding Bar Program award is for “a restaurant or bar that demonstrates exceptional care and skill in the selection, preparation and serving of cocktails, spirits and/or beer,” the foundation said in a news release.

Birmingham’s Atomic Lounge stirs up the right formula for success from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn, Bill Briand of Fisher’s Upstairs in Orange Beach and Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood again are semifinalists this year for Best Chef: South. The South region includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico. Bancroft and Briand are semifinalists for the fourth year in a row, while Hontzas was chosen for the third straight year.

Chef David Bancroft of Acre Restaurant in Auburn talks about James Beard awards in this 2016 Alabama NewsCenter interview from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Bill Briand of Fisher’s Upstairs in Orange Beach a James Beard semifinalist from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Chef Timothy Hontzas talks James Beard awards, Johnny’s in Homewood and growing up in the business from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A James Beard Award for a culinary professional is akin to those in the movie industry earning an Academy Award or journalists winning a Pulitzer Prize. Being a Beard semifinalist often will propel a chef, restaurant or bar to regional fame and beyond, while capturing the prestigious award can bring national fame.

That was certainly the case for Highlands Bar & Grill pastry chef Dolester Miles, who won a Beard Award last year for Outstanding Pastry Chef and soon after was profiled in The New York Times. Highlands, which had been a finalist for a decade and already was well known on the national restaurant scene, also won a Beard Award in 2018 for Outstanding Restaurant.

The awards, established by the James Beard Foundation in 1990, “recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable for everyone,” the foundation said in a news release.

Nominees for the awards will be announced March 27, with winners honored at the James Beard Foundation Awards gala on Monday, May 6, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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