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Mashama Bailey, of The Grey restaurant in Savannah, is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.

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Southern chefs have strong showing in 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist lineup

The James Beard Foundation just announced the 2019 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists, and on the list are quite a few movers and shakers down South.

The James Beard Foundation's annual awards are not unlike the Grammy's, Oscars or Tony Awards. In fact, for members of the culinary world, this is as big as it gets. For a long time this list focused heavily on talent from cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Now however, with a broader appreciation of regional cuisines, more and more fresh faces are getting some shine.

From Best New Restaurant to Outstanding Pastry Chef, the South is proving to others what we already know — we're gosh darn lucky to be Southerners. Read below to see who made James Beard semifinalist list and maybe try to snag a reservation at one of these restaurants while you still can. 

Best New Restaurant
Bywater American Bistro, New Orleans
The Elysian Bar, New Orleans
Folk, Nashville
Petra and the Beast, Dallas
The Stanley, Charlotte, NC
Suerte, Austin
The Surf Club Restaurant, Surfside, FL

Outstanding Baker
Evrim Dogu and Evin Dogu, Sub Rosa Bakery, Richmond, VA
Naomi Harris, Madruga Bakery, Coral Gables, FL
Debbie Swenerton, Black Bear Bread Co., Grayton Beach, FL
Chris Wilkins, Root Baking Co., Atlanta

Outstanding Bar Program
Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston
The Atomic Lounge, Birmingham, AL
Kimball House, Decatur, GA
Saint Leo, Oxford, MS
Ticonderoga Club, Atlanta

Outstanding Chef 
Ashley Christensen, Poole’s Diner, Raleigh, NC
Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans
Margot McCormack, Margot Café & Bar, Nashville
Chris Shepherd, Georgia James, Houston

Outstanding Pastry Chef 
Ashley Capps, Buxton Hall, Asheville, NC
Kelly Fields, Willa Jean, New Orleans
Rabii Saber, Four Seasons Resort, Orlando, FL
Ricardo “Ricchi” Sanchez, Bullion, Dallas
Laura Sawicki, Launderette, Austin
Cynthia Wong, Life Raft Treats, Charleston, SC

Outstanding Restaurant
FIG, Charleston, SC
Norman’s, Orlando, FL
The Original Ninfa's on Navigation, Houston

Outstanding Restaurateur 
Hugh Acheson, Atlanta (Empire State South, Five & Ten, The National, and others)
JoAnn Clevenger, Upperline, New Orleans
Benjamin Goldberg and Max Goldberg, Strategic Hospitality, Nashville (The Catbird Seat, The Patterson House, Henrietta Red, and others)
Steve Palmer, The Indigo Road, Charleston, SC (The Macintosh, Oak Steakhouse, Indaco, and others)
Julie Petrakis and James Petrakis, Swine Family Restaurant Group, Orlando, FL (The Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder, The Polite Pig, and others)
Tracy Vaught, H Town Restaurant Group, Houston (Hugo’s, Caracol, Xochi, and others)

Outstanding Service 
Brigtsen’s, New Orleans
The French Room, Dallas
Hugo’s, Houston
Kimball House, Decatur, GA
Mama J’s, Richmond, VA
Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church, VA
Tony’s, Houston
Victoria & Albert’s, Orlando, FL

Outstanding Wine Program 
Bacchanal, New Orleans
Miller Union, Atlanta
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse at the Galleria, Houston
Stems & Skins, North Charleston, SC

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer
An Bui, Mekong and The Answer Brewpub, Richmond, VA
Rutger de Vink, RdV Vineyards, Delaplane, VA
Drew Kulsveen, Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY
Sean Lilly Wilson, Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC
Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell, High Wire Distilling Co., Charleston, SC
Kim McPherson, McPherson Cellars, Lubbock, TX
Jeffrey Stuffings, Jester King Brewery, Austin

Rising Star Chef of the Year
Rachel Bennett, The Library, St. Petersburg, FL
Ana Castro, Coquette, New Orleans
Valerie Chang and Nando Chang, Itamae, Miami
Evan Gaudreau, Renzo, Charleston, SC
Ian Redshaw, Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria, Charlottesville, VA
Jonathan “Jonny” Rhodes, Restaurant Indigo, Houston
Nolan Wynn, Banshee, Atlanta

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja, Lehja, Richmond, VA

Best Chef: South
Lindsay Autry, The Regional Kitchen & Public House, West Palm Beach, FL
David Bancroft, Acre, Auburn, AL
Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS
Bill Briand, Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina, Orange Beach, AL
Clay Conley, Buccan, Palm Beach, FL
Alex Eaton, The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen, Jackson, MS
Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans
Michael Gulotta, Maypop, New Orleans
Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf, New Orleans
Timothy Hontzas, Johnny’s Restaurant, Homewood, AL
Brad Kilgore, Alter, Miami
Niven Patel, Ghee Indian Kitchen, Miami
Matthew McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, AR
Alex Perry, Vestige, Ocean Springs, MS
Jeannie Pierola, Edison: Food+Drink Lab, Tampa, FL
Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans
Melissa Donahue-Talmage, Sweet Melissa’s Café, Sanibel, FL
Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans

Best Chef: Southeast
Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, GA
Rebecca Barron, St. John’s Restaurant, Chattanooga, TN
Jon Buck, Husk Greenville, Greenville, SC
Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC
Gregory Collier, Loft & Cellar, Charlotte, NC
Cassidee Dabney, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Steven Devereaux Greene, Herons, Cary, NC
Oscar Diaz, The Cortez, Raleigh, NC
Bryan Furman, B’s Cracklin’ BBQ, Atlanta
Josh Habiger, Bastion, Nashville
Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani, Asheville, NC
Kevin Johnson, The Grocery, Charleston, SC
Joe Kindred, Kindred, Davidson, NC
Cheetie Kumar, Garland, Raleigh, NC
Jacques Larson, The Obstinate Daughter, Sullivan’s Island, SC
Dean Neff, PinPoint, Wilmington, NC
Ryan Smith, Staplehouse, Atlanta
Brian So, Spring, Marietta, GA
Julia Sullivan, Henrietta Red, Nashville
Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis


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Ryan Hughley is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously. 

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