2018 James Beard Foundation Awards Restaurant and Chef Semifinalists Announced

The James Beard Foundation has announced its list of Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists for the 28th annual James Beard Foundation Awards. Selected from a list of more than 20,000 online entries, the prestigious group of semifinalists in 21 categories represents a wide range of culinary talent, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations nationally and in ten different regions across the U.S., to the best new restaurants, outstanding bar programs, bakers, and rising star chefs 30 or younger.

On Wednesday, March 14, the Foundation will announce the final nominees for all Award categories.

The James Beard Foundation holds an online open call for entries beginning in mid-October of each year. This year, more than 20,000 entries were received, a list which the Restaurant and Chef Committee reviews to determine eligibility and regional representation. Based on the results and eligibility requirements for each award, the committee then produces a nominating ballot that lists the semifinalists in each of the 21 Restaurant and Chef Award categories. The list of semifinalists is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country. This panel, which comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners, votes on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees in each category. The same judges then vote on these five nominees to select the winners. Tabulations to determine the nominees and winners are done by independent auditors, Lutz & Carr. The governing Awards Committee, board of trustees, and staff of the James Beard Foundation do not vote, and the results are kept confidential until the presentation of winners in May. Awards policies and procedures can be reviewed on the James Beard site at

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.


Local Nominees include:


Best New Restaurant

A restaurant opened in the calendar year before the award will be given that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.

Felix Trattoria, Venice, CA

Kismet, Los Angeles

Vespertine, Culver City, CA


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.

Or Amsalam and Alex Phaneuf, Lodge Bread Company, Los Angeles


Outstanding Bar Program

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

Bar Clacson, Los Angeles


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.

Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles


Outstanding Restaurateur

A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Candidates must not have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.

Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, Rustic Canyon Group, Santa Monica, CA (Cassia, Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Rustic Canyon, and others)

Caroline Styne, The Lucques Group, Los Angeles (Lucques, a.o.c., Tavern, and others)

Outstanding Service

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

n/naka, Los Angeles

Park’s Barbeque, Los Angeles

Providence, Los Angeles

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.

a.o.c., Los Angeles

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.

Liz Johnson, Freedman’s, Los Angeles

Miles Thompson, Michael’s, Santa Monica

Jonathan Yao, Kato, Los Angeles

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)

Josef Centeno, Orsa & Winston, Los Angeles

Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles

Jeremy Fox, Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, CA

Jessica Koslow, Sqirl, Los Angeles

Travis Lett, Gjelina, Venice, CA

Niki Nakayama, n/naka, Los Angeles

See this year’s full semifinalist list at at

Submitted by the James Beard Foundation

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