Several Nashville chefs named as semifinalists for coveted James Beard Awards

March 4, 2019 

When the James Beard Foundation announced the list of semifinalists for their annual awards, (sometimes referred to “The Oscars of Food”) last week, Nashville’s restaurant community was very well represented. Nominees for the semifinal level that is considered “the long list” come from suggestions that are submitted by anyone that is interested in food and cares to cast their votes at the organization’s website. The list will be winnowed down to a shorter list of finalists by panels of culinary professionals and food media before the ultimate winners are announced at the annual awards gala in Chicago on May 6. 

Photo Credit: JamesBeard.org

Photo Credit: JamesBeard.org

Among chefs, the most prestigious award is in the category of Outstanding Chef, and Nashville boasts an extremely likely nominee for 2019. Margot McCormack of Margot Café & Bar and Marche Artisan Foods in East Nashville is considered a matriarch of the culinary scene in Nashville for many reasons. Not only has she created magnificent food in her restaurants, she has also trained some of the most talented chefs in town, many of who have gone on to open their own eateries. McCormack is also a dependable volunteer for social causes in the community, quick to offer her food and her passion to any event that needs assistance. 

In the regional category of Best Chef: Southeast, Nashville has two representatives on the long list, Josh Habiger from Bastion and Julia Sullivan of Henrietta Red. Habiger first burst on the scene as one of the opening chefs at The Catbird Seat where he introduced Nashville diners to the wonders of a chef-curated tasting menu, a practice he continues at the chef’s bar at Bastion, albeit in a much more casual environment. Sullivan has elevated the seafood scene in town with her elegant and delicious presentations of fish and shellfish dishes at her lovely Germantown restaurant. 

Considering that brothers Benjamin Goldberg and Max Goldberg of Strategic Hospitality are the impetus behind The Catbird Seat, Bastion and Henrietta Red as well as other successful projects like Pinewood Social, Merchants and The Patterson House, it’s no surprise that they have been nominated as Outstanding Restaurateurs by the Beard Foundation for the third consecutive year. The recognition is especially notable considering that most nominees in the category traditionally come from national dining hotbeds like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

Philip Krajeck of Rolf & Daughters is also a repeat nominee, but in a new category. Krajeck earned four Beard nods earlier in his career for his work as chef de cuisine at the WaterColor Inn & Resort’s Fish Out of Water in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, but this year he is recognized in the Best New Restaurant category for his popular eatery in East Nashville, Folk. Krajeck’s work with seasonal vegetables, meat, seafood and pizza at Folk has earned him a legion of local fans, and it’s great to see him in the national spotlight. 

The short list of finalists will be announced on March 27, and we’ll see if any of these worthy nominees make it to the “Big Dance” in Chicago in May. Fingers crossed!

Heather Sinyard