Jan 26, 2023 - Food and Drink

James Beard stands Tampa Bay up again

Illustration of salad ingredients forming a frowny face on a plate.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Why does James Beard hate us?

Driving the news: The semifinalists for the annual James Beard Awards, the signature celebration of the best American cuisine and chefs, were announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: As Tampa Bay's population has boomed since the pandemic, so has its food scene. Yet, we haven't been recognized by Mr. Beard since before COVID.

Yes, but: Southeast Florida and Orlando had plenty of representation, making up 16 of the semifinalists across nearly every possible category.

Flashback: Tampa's Ichicoro Ramen, Rocca and Rooster & the Till were given Michelin Bib Gourmand honors over the summer, but missed out on Florida's first stars.

  • Alvarez also opened Dang Dude at Sparkman Wharf last year, and chefs and critics are still raving about Sarasota's new spot Meliora.

What they're saying: Maryann Ferenc, who started Mise en Place with Blitz in 1986, told Axios she thinks Tampa Bay will soon get its (edible) flowers.

  • "Everyone is watching what we're doing here. There's so much going on in our market and our culinary world, so maybe it's the pause before we'll see the next surge of attention," Ferenc said. "Are they just waiting to see how it turns out? I don't know. We certainly don't want to be off that radar."

Thought bubble: Sure, we aren't Miami. But you're telling me Mission Woods, Kansas — a town of like 200 people — along with multiple restaurants in Idaho and Montana, have better chops than Tampa Bay?

What's ahead: Finalists will be announced on March 29, and the winners will be announced on June 5 at a gala in Chicago.

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