Metro Detroit edged out of James Beard awards

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The prestigious list of semifinalists in the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards were winnowed down to finalists Tuesday, and none of Metro Detroit’s chefs made the cut.

In February the foundation named Chef James Rigato’s Mable Gray, 23825 John R in Hazel Park, as one of 25 semifinalists in the Best New Restaurant category. Rigato’s 40-seat seasonal plates eatery was the only Michigan restaurant to be named in this category.

Death and Taxes in Raleigh, North Carolina; Launderette in Austin, Texas; Liholiho Yacht Club of San Francisco; Shaya of New Orleans; Staplehouse of Atlanta; and Wildair of New York City were named finalists.

Chef Garrett Lipar, formerly of Marais in Grosse Pointe and Torino in Ferndale, was one of the semifinalists in the Rising Star Chef of the Year, an honor that goes to any chef 30 or younger who “displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.” Lipar, who left Marias shortly after his semifinalist nomination, also was named a semifinalists in this category in 2015.

In the Best Chef: Great Lakes category, two Michigan chefs were among the 20 semifinalists: Andy Hollyday of Selden Standard, 3921 Second in Detroit, and Nick Janutol of Forest, 735 Forest in Birmingham. Hollyday was was a semifinalists in this category in 2015.

This year the Best Chef: Great Lakes category was swept by Chicago chefs: Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice, Curtis Duffy of Grace, Lee Wolen of Boka, Erling Wu-Bower of Nico Osteria, and Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia.

The winners among the finalists are announced at the James Beard Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera in Chicago on May 2. Besides Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant design, culinary writing and culinary education accolades, special achievement awards are handed out for Humanitarian of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and others.

This is the 26th year for the James Beard Foundation Awards. The semifinalists are chosen from 20,000 online entries. The semifinalists are narrowed down to finalists by a panel of more than 600 judges comprised of culinary experts from across the country.

In February, Dearborn’s Al Ameer was named one of five recipients of the 2016 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award. It is the first restaurant in Michigan to get the honor since the category was introduced in 1998. Al Ameer will appear in the next “James Beard’s All-American Eats” cookbook.