These Are New Jersey’s James Beard Award Semifinalists for 2019

Six Garden State chefs and restaurants have been nominated for this year's awards, which recognize excellence in the food world.

Photo courtesy of James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation has just released its list of semifinalists for its 2019 awards season, and New Jersey shows up on the list half a dozen times. Every year the Beard Awards recognize excellence in the food world, showcasing the best in chefs, restaurants, wine, service, pastry chefs, bakers, restaurateurs and Rising Star talent. They’re often referred to as the Oscars of the food world, and usually come off with far less controversy and a lot better food.

This year’s list saw some repeats from 2018 semifinalists: Chef Vola’s in Atlantic City made the list of 2018 semifinalists for “Outstanding Service” and is nominated again this year, and Zeppoli’s Joey Baldino and Dan Richer of Jersey City’s Razza Pizza Artigianale are back on the list for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, joining newcomer Randy Forrester of Osteria Ridici in Allentown.

Arguably one of the most exciting awards comes in the Outstanding Chef category, an award with nationwide (as opposed to regional) scope that goes to a seasoned chef with proven accomplishments, talent and influence in the industry; Maricel Presilla of Hoboken’s beloved Cucharamama, who has already won three Beard Awards (Best Chef Mid-Atlantic 2012; Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, Cookbook of the Year, 2013; Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Winner, 2015), is a nominee again this year (among other culinary heavy hitters like David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, California; Missy Robbins of Lilia in Brooklyn; Ana Sortun of Oleana in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Christopher Kostow of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, California).

New Jersey did not make the list for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Outstanding Baker, Outstanding Restaurateur, or Rising Star Chef of the Year, but we do have a representative on the Outstanding Restaurant list: Sagami in Collingswood (formerly nominated for Outstanding Restaurant in 2017).

All the 2019 semifinalists have been written about and/or reviewed in New Jersey Monthly. This is the seventh year in a row on the Best Chef Mid-Atlantic list for Joey Baldino (Zeppoli) and the fourth year for Dan Richer (Razza Pizza Artigianale). Osteria Radici made the Best New Restaurant list last year, but this is chef Randy Forrester’s first time nominated as a chef. (We spoke to him about the direction Osteria Radici was headed just over a year ago.)

The finalists from this list will be announced live from Houston on March 27. The awards ceremony will take place in Chicago on May 6 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Tickets are available starting in March; General Admission goes for $500.

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