James Beard Awards: See which chefs and restaurants in the South are finalists

Todd A. Price
The American South
Award-winning chef and co-owner of The Grey Mashama Bailey was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef.

The James Beard Awards, after a two-year hiatus, have returned in 2022. The awards are considered among the highest honors for American chefs and restaurants.

On March 16, the foundation announced the finalists for the awards. Many chefs and restaurants across the South made the list.

The South dominated the national Outstanding Restaurant category, with three of the five nominees: Brennan's in New Orleans, Butcher & Bee in Charleston, South Carolina and Chai Pani in Asheville, North Carolina.

Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, was nominated for Outstanding Chef. In 2019, Bailey won the regional James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

More:A Southern restaurant’s story reveals truth about race in America

Cleophus “Ophus” Hethington, Jr., chef de cuisine at Benne on Eagle in Asheville.

In the Emerging Chef category, but Serigne Mbaye of New Orleans and Cleophus Hethington of Asheville, North Carolina were named finalists. Mbaye runs the Senegalese pop-up Dakar NOLA and works as the chef de cuisine at Mosquito Supper Club. Hethington is the chef at Benne on Eagle, whose original chef, Ashleigh Shanti, was also a finalist in this category in 2020.

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More:Will the South embrace Senegalese cooking? One young chef has a plan

Attaboy in Nashville is a South location of a bar that began in New York.

Alley Twenty Six in Durham, North Carolina and Attaboy, the Nashville location a bar that began in New York, are both nominees for Outstanding Bar Program.

More:New York restaurants are coming to Nashville. Here's why

Zak Stern, baker and owner of Miami’s Zak the Baker, dropped out of pharmacy school and traveled through Eastern Europe, apprenticing and farming in exchange for room and board.

Zak Stern of Miami, who runs the kosher bakery Zak the Baker, is a finalist for Outstanding Baker.

The James Beard Foundation recognized both the Atlanta bar Ticonderoga Club and the Asheville restaurant Cúrate as finalists for Outstanding Hospitality. Ticonderoga Club was an Outstanding Bar Program finalist in 2019. Cúrate's chef and co-owner, Katie Button, was a rising star nominee in 2014.

Claudia Martinez of Miller Union in Atlanta is a nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

Kevin Gillespie, whose Atlanta Red Beard Restaurants group runs Gunshow, Revival and Cold Beer, was nominated as Outstanding Restaurateur. Kevin Gillespie was nominated in 2016 as Outstanding Chef: South.

The regional awards honor top chefs in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

South region

This year's finalists in the South region, which includes Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida and Puerto Rico, are:

  • Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith of Saint-Germain in New Orleans
  • Adam Evans of Automatic Seafood and Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Timothy Hontzas of Johnny's Restaurant in Homewood, Alabama
  • Melissa Martin of Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans
  • Isaac Toups of Toups' Meatery in New Orleans

Automatic Seafood and Oysters was a 2020 finalist for Best New Restaurant. Toups has been a finalist for this award in 2016, 2019 and 2020.

More:3 restaurants where you can taste the past, present and future of Birmingham

More:Prize-winning 'Mosquito Supper Club' cookbook honors a Cajun village in peril

Chef Adam Evans created a modern seafood restaurant at Automatic Seafood in Birmingham, Alabama. (Courtesy of Automatic Seafood)

Southeast region

In the Southeast region, which covers Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, the finalists are:

  • Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina
  • Greg Collier of Leah & Louise in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Philip Krajeck of Rolf and Daughters in Nashville
  • Cheetie Kumar of Garland in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Ricky Moore of SALTBOX Seafood Joint in Durham, North Carolina

Cúrate's chef and co-owner, Katie Button, was a rising star nominee in 2014. Kumar was a finalist for this award in 2020.

Chef Katie Button runs Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina.

The James Beard Foundation also named author and filmmaker Grace Young as Humanitarian of the Year for her work to save America's Chinatowns. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to television cooking pioneer Martin Yan.

The winners of the restaurant and chef awards will be announced at a gala in Chicago June 13. 

The nominees for the food media awards will be announced April 27.

The James Beard Foundation already announced the six 2022 winners of the America's Classics award, which honors long-running, often family-run restaurants. The Busy Bee Cafe in Atlanta, a soul food stalwart that was a favorite of Martin Luther King Jr., was among this year's winners.

James Beard awards semifinalists:See which chefs and restaurants in the South were named

The James Beard Awards were suspended in 2020 after the finalists had been announced. No winners were named that year.

An audit of the awards process was conducted by the James Beard Foundation and new procedures were created to promote diversity and increase transparency. The foundation also established an independent ethics panel to address any accusations of misconduct lodged against the nominated chefs and restaurants.

Reporter Todd Price is a member of the James Beard chef and restaurant committee. You can call him at 504-421-1542 or email him at