James Beard Announces Nine Utah Semi-Finalists

In the food community, there are little higher accolades than the James Beard Awards. The non-profit organization has been recognizing and uplifting exceptional individuals in the restaurant community since 1990, and is considered one of the most prestigious recognitions in the industry. Throughout its 30 years in existence, the James Beard Foundation has evolved from a provisional tastemaker into a thought leader honoring those pushing the needle forward in food. In 2021, the organization announced an overhaul of its mission statement to center a commitment to racial and gender equity. As their mission statement denotes, “The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity and sustainability.” 

The revision in the foundation’s values and standards have perhaps renewed the James Beard Awards’ prominence in the food community (and redeemed them from a near-cancellation in 2020), and restaurateurs/chefs around the country are glowing at the recent announcement of the 2023 semi-finalists. Released officially on Jan. 25, the foundation nominated culinary connoisseurs across the country for categories like Outstanding Chef, Outstanding Hospitality and Outstanding Bar. Nominated across several categories, nine Utah chefs and restaurants are in the running to take home the ‘Oscar’ of cuisine, here’s how they shake out: 

Hell’s Backbone Grill and Farm For Outstanding Restaurant 

Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, owners of Hell’s Backbone, have been named semi-finalists in the James Beard Awards in previous years. Including in 2020, when they were announced as winners of Best Chef category, only to be devastated when the organization decided not to name any winners in 2020 or 2021. Despite the turbulence of past years, the minds behind Hell’s Backbone have maintained their tenacious spirit and exceptional food. 

Normal Ice Cream for Best Bakery 

The retro ice cream truck turned confectionery connoisseur is well-loved for their selection of bars, sandwiches, choco tacos and sweet treats. Their unconventional flavor combinations and high-quality ingredients have rightfully caught the attention of the James Beard Judges. 

Manoli’s for Outstanding Hospitality 

Manoli’s Mediterranean fusion menu adds flavor and flair to Salt Lake’s dining scene, and owners Manoli and Katrina Katsanevas are well-respected leaders in the food community. Apart from Katsanevas’ focus on delicious food, they place emphasis on caring for customers.  Said by Manoli himself: “That’s why you get into the business, to feed and please people.” 

Post Office Place for Outstanding Bar 

Conceived by the minds of sushi Hall of Fame favorite, Takashi, Post Office Place has solidified its place as a distinct steward of Nikkei flavor and creativity. Bar Manager Crystal Daniels and chef Brendan Kawakami have built on that foundation to create a menu overflowing with Japanese spirits and experiential bites. 

Paul Chamberlain and Logen Crew of SLC Eatery for Best Chef (Mountain Region)

Chamberlain and Crew have been unmistakable talents in Utah Kitchen for a long time, and SLC Eatery has become a go-to recommendation for foodies for several years. The constantly evolving menu offers a new adventure upon every visit. 

Young-Ho Kang and Peter Kim of The Angry Korean for Best Chef (Mountain Region)

Kim and Yang, both of which have extensive backgrounds in Korean and NYC kitchens, have built an exciting Korean-American fusion menu that’s ignited Utah’s taste buds. 

Ali Sabbah of Mazza for Best Chef (Mountain Region)

Sabbah introduced countless Utahns to middle eastern flavors, and we loved it. His complex Lebanese dishes tell a story of tradition and nostalgia, which Sabbah works to preserve through his hands-on commitment to traditional methods in the kitchen. 

Andrew Fuller of Oquirrh for Best Chef (Mountain Region)

Fuller and his wife Angie opened Oquirrh in 2019, placing importance on a chef-run and local-driven experience. Their ever-shifting menu is always elevated and always delightful, while never venturing into stuffy territory. 

Briar Handly of Handle for Best Chef (Mountain Region) 

Briar Handly has been nominated for a James Beard Award in the past, thanks to his approach to cuisine that has always remained humble and inventive. Daily-printed menus accommodate his constant spur-of-the-moment ideas and seasonal ingredients to spotlight the best of Utah produce. 

Avrey Evans
Avrey Evanshttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Avrey Evans is the Digital and the Nightlife Editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has been writing for city publications for six years and enjoys covering the faces and places of our salty city, especially when a boozy libation is concerned.

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