Two Santa Monica Chefs have been nominated for the prestigious 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards.
Rustic Canyon Chef Jeremy Fox has been nominated for his recent cookbook On Vegetables and as Best Chef in the West (CA, HI, and NV). Miles Thompson, Chef at Michael’s has been nominated as Rising Star Chef of the Year.
According to the Foundation, the awards were created in 1990 to “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.”
Nominees were selected in nearly 60 categories by individual committees of industry professionals. There is no cash prize but winners do receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia.
Fox earned a reputation as one of the country’s best chefs while working in Napa. His vegetarian cuisine won rave reviews and came to dominate discussions of California cuisine. He now cooks an omnivore menu at Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon restaurant where he said both nominations wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his colleagues.
“I’m incredibly honored by both nominations,” he said. “The chef category is a testament to my team that works so hard every day, and I hope to see their names on these lists in the future.”
Fox’s book encourages the use of the entire plant and while it isn’t necessarily a beginner’s guide, he said it doesn’t require a professional kitchen to execute any of the 160 dishes. The recipes are all small plates and the book recognizes the importance of the local farmers who produce the raw ingredients.
“The book nomination is just surreal, as I put off actually making the book for so long, and never thought it would happen,” he said. “Again, I wasn’t alone in producing the book. I had my co-author Noah Galuten, photographer Rick Poon, and scores of others.”
Thompson has had a whirlwind career that covers renowned restaurants like Nobu, Animal, Son of a Gun and his own Allumette. He began work at Michael’s in August of 2016 and about 18 months later he has been recognized as “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.”
Thompson said he doesn’t cook for the awards but he is deeply appreciative of the recognition.
“I’m so humbled and blown away to be chosen as a James Beard Rising Star Chef finalist. I have so much admiration for the other chefs that are nominated with me, and to even be considered is a huge honor,” he said. “This has all been incredibly amazing and surreal.”
He said the nomination means a lot to the entire team at Michael’s and the outpouring of support has been tremendous. Thompson said he continues to evaluate his time in the kitchen one dish at a time.
“The only way I’ve ever been able to measure success is by taking it day by day,” he said. “I set these small goals for myself and if I can find even the smallest tweak that improves something: that is meaningful to me, and I’ll take tomorrow to make it even better.”
Winners will be announced on May 7 in Chicago. Tickets are available at jamesbeard.org/awards/tickets.

Local Nominees

2018 James Beard Foundation Book Awards: Restaurant and Professional
For books published in English in 2017.
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen
Jeremy Fox and Noah Galuten (Phaidon)

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

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

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.
Miles Thompson, Michael’s, Santa Monica, CA

Best Chefs: Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV)
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.

Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles
Jeremy Fox, Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, CA
Jessica Koslow, Sqirl, Los Angeles
Travis Lett, Gjelina, Venice, CA