Several local restaurant veterans, as well as some newcomers and popular eateries, are among the finalists for this year's James Beard food awards.
Last month, 18 semifinalists from New Orleans were named for the honors in dining and hospitality. On Wednesday, the finalists were announced and 12 locals made the cut. Winners will be announced May 1 in Chicago.
Chef Donald Link, the restaurateur behind Herbsaint, Cochon and Peche, is a nominee for the fourth time in the Outstanding Chef category. In 2014, Peche won the national award for best new restaurant.
Zachary Engel of Shaya is nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year. The award is designed to recognize a chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come." Shaya, the modern Israeli restaurant from chef Alon Shaya and the Besh Restaurant Group, won Best New Restaurant in 2016.
In the category of Best Chef: South, New Orleans has three of the five contenders for the regional award: Nina Compton of Compère Lapin, Slade Rushing of Brennan’s Restaurant, and Rebecca Wilcomb of Herbsaint.
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Last year, the Best Chef: South award went to New Orleans chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery and Balise.
Also among this year's local nominees, the beloved proprietor of Upperline Restaurant, JoAnn Clevenger, is nominated for a fourth time as well, for Outstanding Restaurateur.
Kelly Fields, pastry chef for the Besh Restaurant Group and partner in its Willa Jean café and bakery, is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
Chef/restaurateur Emeril Lagasse was nominated for "Outstanding Host/Personality" in the James Beard foundation's media awards for his 2016 Amazon web series "Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse."