For the first time in a decade, the James Beard Award finalists have no Alabama flavor. The three Alabama chefs and the Birmingham bar named as 2019 semifinalists in February did not advance to the nominee round announced this morning at a breakfast at Hugo’s in Houston.
David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn, Bill Briand of Fisher’s Upstairs in Orange Beach and Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood were semifinalists this year for Best Chef: South. Bancroft and Briand were semifinalists for the fourth straight year, while Hontzas was named for the third year in a row. The South region includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.
The Atomic Lounge had been named a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program for the second straight year, one of 20 in 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.
Highlands Bar & Grill, which won the 2018 Outstanding Restaurant Award, had been a finalist in that category since 2009. And Dolester Miles, chosen as the nation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2018, was a nominee from 2016-18.
James Beard Awards bestow prestige, and often fame, on culinary professionals who win them. 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.
James Beard Media Award winners will be announced in New York City April 26, while the James Beard Awards Gala will honor winners May 6 in Chicago.