9 local chefs and restaurants make James Beard Awards semifinals list

Among the new names listed this year are Marrow in West Village, Norberto Garita of El Barzon and Genevieve Vang of Dearborn's Bangkok 96

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Chef and restaurateur Norberto Garita is a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes for El Barzon.

The prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards announced the first-round choices for the best restaurants and chefs in the country, and once again the local dining scene makes a good showing with nine names, up two from 2018.

The semifinalist lists, announced Wednesday morning, includes Marrow in Detroit's West Village among the 29 places considered for Best New Restaurant, nationwide. The restaurant and neighborhood butcher shop has been praised throughout its first year of business for inventive dishes and commitment to serving healthy and sustainable cuisine.   

Marrow is one of the new players on the list that includes some local taste-makers that we've seen year after year.

More new names are found in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category, which includes chefs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Chicago traditionally dominates this category and this year is no different. Of the 20 chefs named, five are from Detroit and 11 are from Chicago. 

The Best Chef: Great Lakes semifinalists are Norberto Garita of El Barzon in Southwest Detroit, which is likely an overdue honor. Anthony Lombardo of SheWolf in Midtown, Genevieve Vang of Dearborn's Bangkok 96, Kate Williams of Lady of the House in Corktown are also named, as well as James Rigato of Mabel Gray in Hazel Park (his fourth time on this list). 

For the third year in a row, Lisa Ludwinski of Marrow's neighbor Sister Pie was named a semifinalist for Outstanding Baker. Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor is a semifinalists for Outstanding Service.

Another familiar name on the semifinalist roll is Selden Standard's Lena Sareini for Rising Star Chef of the Year for the second year in a row. 

Lena Sareini, pastry chef at Detroit’s Selden Standard, at 3921 Second, is listed as a semifinalist for “Rising Star Chef of the Year.”

Next month, the foundation will announce the final list of nominees as paired down by votes from more than 600 judges from across the country. The same group also votes on the final winners. Awards are given out May 5-6 in Chicago. 

Metro Detroit's dining scene came up short in the categories of Outstanding Restaurant, Outstanding Restaurateur, Outstanding Chef, Outstanding Pastry Chef, Outstanding Bar Program and Outstanding Wine Program.

In 2018, seven Metro Detroit chefs and restaurants were on the semifinalist list, and only Zingerman's Deli advanced to be a nominee for Outstanding Service. 

So what does this mean?

With nine semifinalists in the running, Metro Detroit — in the eyes of James Beard Foundation Awards, which is considered the Oscars of the food world — is continuing to inch toward having more sure footing when competing on a national level. The final nominee list is scheduled to be announced March 27.  


Twitter: @melodybaetens