Drum Roll: Latino Chefs Nominated for James Beard Awards

The James Beard Foundation Awards are considered the Oscars of the culinary world. It’s an occasion where the best chefs—the ones who make the most innovative, delicious and drool-worthy food—are represented in nominations from coast to coast. The names of the nominees were just rolled out and hundreds of chefs are holding their collective breath until March 15, when five finalists in each category will be announced.  

 More than 600 culinary professionals and experts will then vote on the winners for the industry’s highest awards—named after seminal cookbook author, chef and acclaimed teacher James Beard—which are presented in a lavish ceremony held May 7 in New York City. Previous Latino winners include Jose Andres, Jose Garces and Michelle Bernstein. With more than a dozen Latino semi-finalists in the 22nd annual James Beard Awards, here’s a look at some of the nation’s best Latino chefs.

Best New Restaurant

Picca

Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate is the star behind Picca, one of this year’s nominees for the coveted Best New Restaurant category. Zarate has made it his mission to spread his love of Peruvian cooking through innovative dishes and creative ingredient pairings.

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic

Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama, Hoboken, NJ

This Cuban-born chef uses food as a way to present history, thanks to her doctorate in medieval Spanish history and cultural anthropology training. She’s known for her passion for tropical crops such as cacao and vanilla, elements that drive her style of cooking.

Best Chef, NYC

César Ramirez, Brooklyn Fare

Brooklyn Fare was created as a humble restaurant styled after a bodega by a chef who never received formal culinary training. Now the restaurant has 3 Michelin stars, and Ramirez is at the top of his game with impressive seafood styling and perfect technique.

Best Chef: Pacific

John Rivera Sedlar, Rivera, Los Angeles

Christened the father of modern Southwest cuisine by Gourmet Magazine, John Rivera Sedlar is known for his innovative interpretation of classic Mexican-American staples. With French technique and a passion for his culture, Rivera Sedlar’s cookbooks have become kitchen staples and his restaurants are praised across the country.

Best Chef: South

Henry Salgado, Spanish River Grill, New Smyrna Beach, FL

Spanish-Cuban chef Henry Salgado presents classically Spanish dishes with a modern twist. With a love for seafood, Salgado’s menu is driven by locally sourced ingredients and creative seasoning.

Paula DaSilva, 1500º at Eden Roc Renaissance Miami, Miami Beach, FL

A true culinary star, DaSilva’s culinary style blends a farm-to-table sensibility with classic American flavors. She’s also appeared on the Fox cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay” and is a native of Brazil who’s resided stateside since childhood.

Best Chef: Southeast

Anthony Lamas, Seviche, Louisville, KY

What do you get when you blend Latino flavors with Southern staples like fried green tomatoes? Anthony Lamas’ innovative take on Nuevo Latino cookery at Seviche, of course. It’s the third nomination for Lamas, whose newest project is a fresh spin on country-specific cuisine presented in monthly dinner events he calls his “Latin dinner series.”

Best Chef: Southwest

Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café, Phoenix

Esparza is best known for the funky, down-home style of southern Mexican cooking she serves up every day at Barrio Café.  The menu’s offerings, very different from thesimple dishes you know and love, draw on Esparza’s experience cooking with the people of Mexico as she traveled from village to village as a 40th birthday gift to herself. “Save water, drink tequila,” says the footnote on her menu.

Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston

Hugo Ortega rose from dishwasher to chef and the menu at his downtown Houston restaurant reflects his love of Mexico’s regional cuisine and classic American Flavors. Named “Chef of the Year” by the Houston Culinary Awards, Ortega’s accomplishments have been praised by Bon Appetite and Gourmet Magazine.

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