2023 James Beard Award Nominee: Ali Sabbah from Mazza

The James Beard Foundation announced the 2023 Restaurant and Chef Award nominees before the James Beard Awards ceremonies in June. We are delighted that our Ali Sabbah from Mazza is one of the year’s nominees (read: finalist) in the Mountain States category. 

When the semi-finalists were announced earlier this year, nine Utah chefs and restaurants were on the list

For those not in the know, the James Beard awards are like the culinary version of the Oscars – truly the best of the best restaurants. And much like the Oscars, there is quite a process for selection:

  1. Chefs or restaurants are nominated by the public or selected by a committee.
  2. They have the chance to share their story and mission.
  3. Restaurants go through an extensive vetting and eligibility process.

They must also align with the values, mission, and ethics of the James Beard Foundation. Finally, the selection committee narrows down the list, and awards go out in early summer – right around James Beard’s birthday. Whew! 

Ending up on the list of semi-finalists is an honor. But being nominated in one of the award categories is an even more significant accomplishment. And if ever there was a restauranteur that deserves recognition here in Salt Lake City, it is our friend, Ali, at Mazza. He has been making authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine since opening in 2000, back when hummus was still a mystery to the majority of the valley. His dedication to excellence in cuisine, warm service, and a Middle Eastern beer and wine program makes Mazza stand out. Despite having to shut down his other Salt Lake locations, Sabbah’s original cozy restaurant on 15th and 15th continues to maintain the high standard he holds himself to.

“We are not here to cut corners,” Ali said in a recent interview with our Salt Lake Magazine team. He explained that many other restaurants use pre-made shortcuts and frozen supplies. “We make our food every day from scratch. I slice the lamb myself. In doing so, we show respect for the dishes and the tradition.”

The focus on food and experience is one of the reasons why Mazza just won the Comfort Food Favorite award from Salt Lake Magazine earlier this year. 

More than anything, Ali and Mazza have stood as leaders in our city’s culinary landscape. He has generously mentored many a chef, advocated for the challenges restaurants face in Utah, and supported many a non-profit organization and community events. 

We wish Mazza the best of luck in the upcoming awards run. Winners will be announced on or around Jul 5, 2023.

Utah Local Semi-Finalists

  • Outstanding Restaurant: Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, Boulder, UT 
  • Outstanding Bakery: Normal Ice Cream, Salt Lake City, UT 
  • Outstanding Hospitality: Manoli’s, Salt Lake City, UT 
  • Outstanding Bar: Post Office Place, Salt Lake City, UT 
  • Best Chef Mountain Region: Paul Chamberlain and Logen Crew, SLC Eatery, Salt Lake City, UT 
  • Best Chef Mountain Region: Andrew Fuller, Oquirrh, Salt Lake City, UT 
  • Briar Handly, Handle, Park City, UT
  • Young-Ho Kang and Peter Kim, The Angry Korean, South Jordan, UT
  • Ali Sabbah, Mazza, Salt Lake City, UT

Other Restaurant Nominations in the Mountain States Category:

  • Salvador Alamilla, Amano, Caldwell, ID
  • Michael Diaz de Leon, BRUTØ, Denver, CO
  • Suchada Johnson, Teton Thai, Teton Village, WY
  • Kris Komori, KIN, Boise, ID
  • Ali Sabbah, Mazza, Salt Lake City, UT

See more stories like this and all of our food and drink coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah. 

Lydia Martinez
Lydia Martinezhttp://www.saltlakemgazine.com
Lydia Martinez is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer. She has written for Salt Lake Magazine, Suitcase Foodist, and Utah Stories. She is a reluctantly stationary nomad who mostly travels to eat great food. She is a sucker for anything made with lots of butter and has been known to stay in bed until someone brings her coffee. Do you have food news? Send tips to lydia@saltlakemagazine.com

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