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Here Are the Local James Beard Foundation Semifinalists for 2020

The narrowed-down nominee list will be announced on March 25, 2020

A silver James Beard medal is isolated on a black background
James Beard award
James Beard Foundation [Official Photo]

It’s that time of year again: Today, the James Beard Foundation announced its list of semifinalists for the 2020 restaurant and chef awards, including a lot of familiar New England names that tend to turn up on the list from year to year — and a few newbies as well. It’ll be the foundation’s 30th year of awards.

The semifinalist announcement today is the first part of a multi-step process, and the list is a result of an online open call for entries that began late last year, in addition to input from an independent volunteer group of over 250 panelists around the United States. A committee reviewed the entries for eligibility and regional representation.

On March 25, the foundation will announce a pared-down list of nominees, as voted on by over 600 judges from around the country and committee members; nominees for the media awards (honoring cookbooks and more) will also be announced at this time. The restaurant and chef winners — voted on by the same panel of judges (restaurant critics, food editors, culinary educators, and others) — will be announced at a Chicago gala on May 4, preceded by announcements of the media awards on April 24 and the leadership awards on May 3. 2020’s “America’s Classics” honorees have already been announced, including Puritan Backroom in Manchester, New Hampshire, a restaurant that claims to have invented chicken tenders in 1974.

Here are the New England semifinalists for 2020 James Beard Foundation restaurant and chef awards.

Massachusetts

People

  • Maura Kilpatrick (Sofra Bakery, Cambridge) — Outstanding Baker semifinalist (Kilpatrick was a semifinalist — and went on to be a nominee — in this category last year.)
  • Ana Sortun (Oleana, Cambridge) — Outstanding Chef semifinalist (Sortun was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Renae Connolly (Benedetto, Cambridge) — Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalist
  • Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer (JK Food Group [Little Donkey, Toro, Coppa], Boston) — Outstanding Restaurateur semifinalists (Oringer was a semifinalist and nominee in this category last year.)
  • Irene Li (Mei Mei, Boston) — Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist (Li was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Unmi Abkin (Coco & the Cellar Bar, Easthampton) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Abkin was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Tracy Chang (Pagu, Cambridge) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist
  • Carl Dooley (The Table at Season to Taste, Cambridge) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Dooley was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Tiffani Faison (Orfano, Boston) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Faison was a semifinalist and nominee in this category last year for her work at Tiger Mama.)
  • Mayumi Hattori (The Club Car, Nantucket) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist
  • Seizi Imura (Cafe Sushi, Cambridge) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Imura was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Cassie Piuma (Sarma, Somerville) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Piuma was a semifinalist and nominee in this category last year.)
  • Douglass Williams (MIDA, Boston) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist

Restaurants

  • Fox & the Knife (Boston) — Best New Restaurant semifinalist (Chef and owner Karen Akunowicz won a 2018 Beard for Best Chef: Northeast.)
  • Tanám (Somerville) — Best New Restaurant semifinalist
  • The Baldwin Bar (Woburn) — Outstanding Bar Program semifinalist (The Baldwin Bar was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Mistral (Boston) — Outstanding Hospitality semifinalist
  • Neptune Oyster (Boston) — Outstanding Restaurant semifinalist
  • Grill 23 (Boston) — Outstanding Wine Program semifinalist
  • Haley.Henry (Boston) — Outstanding Wine Program semifinalist (Haley.Henry was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)

Maine

People

  • Briana Holt (Tandem Coffee + Bakery, Portland) — Outstanding Baker semifinalist
  • Melissa Kelly (Primo, Rockland — Outstanding Chef semifinalist
  • Vien Dobui (CÔNG TỬ BỘT, Portland) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Dobui was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Devin Finigan (Aragosta at Goose Cove, Deer Isle) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist
  • Erin French (The Lost Kitchen, Freedom) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (French was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Ben Jackson (Drifters Wife, Portland) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist
  • Krista Kern Desjarlais (The Purple House, North Yarmouth) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Kern Desjarlais was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Greg Mitchell and Chad Conley (Palace Diner, Biddeford) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Mitchell and Conley were also semifinalists in this category last year.)
  • Ravin Nakjaroen (Long Grain, Camden) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist

Restaurants

  • Novare Res Bier Café (Portland) — Outstanding Bar Program semifinalist
  • Fore Street (Portland) — Outstanding Restaurant semifinalist (Fore Street was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)

Connecticut

  • Tyler Anderson (Millwright’s Restaurant, Simsbury) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Anderson was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)

Vermont

  • Deirdre Heekin (La Garagista Farm + Winery, Barnard) — Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer semifinalist (Heekin was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)
  • Cara Chigazola Tobin (Honey Road, Burlington) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Chigazola Tobin was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)

New Hampshire

People

  • Jay McSharry (Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe, Vida Cantina, Moxy, and others, Portsmouth) — Outstanding Restaurateur semifinalist
  • David Vargas (Vida Cantina, Portsmouth) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Vargas was also a semifinalist in this category last year.)

Restaurants

  • Black Trumpet Bistro (Portsmouth) — Outstanding Hospitality semifinalist (Chef and owner Evan Mallett was a Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist last year.)

Rhode Island

  • Mariana Gonzalez-Trasvina (Bar ‘Cino, Newport) — Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist
  • James Mark (Big King, Providence) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist (Mark was a semifinalist and nominee in this category last year for his work at North.)
  • Derek Wagner (Nicks on Broadway, Providence) — Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist

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

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