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Announcing SF’s 2019 James Beard Awards Semifinalists

A silver James Beard Foundation medal against a black background is seen. James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation has dropped its Restaurant and Chef Semifinalists for 2019. This year marks the 29th year of the awards, which organizers have promised will have a focus on diversity in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

This year, Bay Area semifinalists seem to have maintained a status quo: 2019 and 2018 had nine semifinalists for Best Chef: West, of which five were women. Many familiar names have made it to this point as well, including Joshua Skenes (Saison), Reem Assil (Reem’s) and Karen Taylor (El Molino).

The entries are reviewed by independent volunteer group of more than 250 panelists around the country; a nominating ballot that lists the semifinalists in each of the 21 Restaurant and Chef Award categories is produced and voted on by over 600 judges around the country to determine the nominees.

Following increasing calls for attention to diversity in the awards, the James Beard Foundation took steps to guarantee a diversified group of both nominees and judges, officially changing its policies in October. Now, as Eater National reports, there’s been an 8 percent increase in people of color on the awards committee, 14 percent of the judges for the Restaurant & Chef, Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards, and a 7 percent increase in the representation of people of color among semifinalists in the Restaurant & Chef categories. (There was, however, a 6 percent decrease in the number of women from last year across the board.)

Five finalist nominees will be chosen per category, to be announced on Wednesday, March 27 from a press conference in Houston. Winners will be announced at the annual James Beard Awards Gala is scheduled for Monday, May 6 in Chicago. (Media awards winners will be revealed on Friday, April 26.)

Now, here are the Bay Area semifinalists. Head here for the full list.

Best New Restaurant

  • Angler, San Francisco
  • Nyum Bai, Oakland

Outstanding Baker

A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries, or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.

  • Greg Mindel, Neighbor Bakehouse, San Francisco
  • Avery Ruzicka, Manresa Bread, Los Gatos, CA

Outstanding Bar Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits, and/or beer service.

  • Bar Agricole, San Francisco

Outstanding Chef A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Eligible candidates must have been working as a chef for the past five years.

  • David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA
  • Christopher Kostow, The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, CA
  • Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco

Outstanding Pastry Chef

A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads in a restaurant, and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence. Must have been a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.

  • Juan Contreras, Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
  • Michelle Polzine, 20th Century Café, San Francisco

Outstanding Restaurant

A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere, and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.

  • Nopa, San Francisco
  • Quince, San Francisco

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.

  • Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, San Francisco (Mission Chinese Food, The Perennial, Commonwealth)

Outstanding Service

A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.

  • Saison, San Francisco
  • Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco

Outstanding Wine Program

A restaurant in operation five or more years that serves as a standard bearer for excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine.

  • Benu, San Francisco

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional

A beer, wine, or spirits professional who has made a significant national impact on the restaurant industry.

  • Cathy Corison, Corison Winery, St. Helena, CA
  • Steve Matthiasson, Matthiasson Wines, Napa, CA
  • Yoshihiro Sako, Den Sake Brewery, Oakland, CA
  • Lance Winters, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA

Rising Star Chef of the Year

A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.

  • Alexander Hong, Sorrel, San Francisco

Best Chefs

Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Eligible candidates may be from any kind of dining establishment and must have been working as a chef for at least five years with the three most recent years spent in the region.

Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV)

  • Reem Assil, Reem’s California, Oakland, CA
  • Gabriela Cámara, Cala, San Francisco
  • Matthew Kammerer, Harbor House Inn, Elk, CA
  • Brandon Rodgers and Ian Scaramuzza, In Situ, San Francisco
  • Dominica Rice-Cisneros, Cosecha Café, Oakland, CA
  • Joshua Skenes, Saison, San Francisco
  • James Syhabout, Commis, Oakland, CA
  • Karen Taylor, El Molino Central, Sonoma, CA
  • Pim Techamuanvivit, Kin Khao, San Francisco

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.