It’s arrived: the six-month period when the restaurant industry waits with bated breath to learn who will take home a rarefied James Beard Award. On Wednesday, January 25, the James Beard Foundation’s committee revealed its semifinalists — otherwise known as the “long list” — in chef, restaurant, and bar categories for what’s widely considered the Academy Awards of the food world. Thirteen Michigan names are in the running this year.
Metro Detroit’s Sandy Levine, owner of Chartreuse, Freya, Dragonfly, and the Oakland, is being considered in the outstanding restaurateur category. Clawson transplant and sustainable seafood booster Hajime Sato of Sozai is named in the outstanding chef category. Amado Lopez of Casa Amado Taqueria in Berkley gets a nod for emerging chef, while Detroit’s own Good Cakes and Bakes is included in the outstanding bakery list. Ann Arbor’s Spencer is included in the list for outstanding wine and other beverages program.
Michigan is also well-represented in the best chef, Great Lakes category, which spans Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Names under consideration include Omar Anani of Saffron De Twah in Detroit, author and chef Abra Berens from Granor Farm in Three Oaks, Norberto Garita of El Barzon in Detroit, Andy Hollyday from Selden Standard in Detroit, Ji Hye Kim from Miss Kim in Ann Arbor, Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimbere of Baobab Fare in New Center, Mike Ransom from Ima, and Sarah Welch from Marrow in West Village.
In 2022, Detroit’s own Warda Bougettaya of Warda Pâtisserie in Cass Corridor clinched a win in the outstanding pastry chef category — an exceptional achievement for Detroit’s hospitality industry, which had not claimed a medal in nearly 30 years.
Simply being named a semifinalist is a high honor in the industry and often becomes a bright spot on chef or establishment’s resume. Over the next few months, the committee will slim down the list to finalists. The “short list” announcement of official nominees is expected on Wednesday, March 29. The awards gala will take place in Chicago on Monday, June 5. Will Bougettaya’s win prove the turning point in Detroit’s luck? Time will tell.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.