To all food lovers: if you’re unfamiliar with the James Beard Foundation, a nomination by the association is the culinary equivalent to winning the Academy Award for best picture or the Nobel Prize in physics — it’s a big deal. For nine of metro Detroit’s best chefs and restaurants to make it on the list of nominees this year says something about the area’s evolving food scene. Here’s a run-down of the chefs and eateries that may have the potential to take home an honorary award.
Best New Restaurant
It’s no surprise that Ping Ho’s Detroit butcher shop-restaurant hybrid has made its way onto the list. Ho, along with executive chef Sarah Welch, focuses the menu to use the entirety of their ingredients. Whether it be the stem of a carrot, or the tail of an ox, the duo find ways to incorporate it into their savory and hearty dishes.
Outstanding Baker Category
The West Village pie shop, run by Lisa Ludwinski, was the recipient of the Hatch Detroit Award in 2014, the same year that it opened its storefront. More often than not, Ludwinski is selling out of her honey lemon meringue pies and peanut butter paprika cookies before noon, a true testament to how beloved Sister Pie is by the city. This is the third consecutive time her shop has been nominated in this category.
An extension of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, which includes the famous Zingerman’s Deli, the comfort-food spot serves beef, pork, lamb, and goat sourced from South Carolina and nearby Washtenaw county. Part of the service at the Ann Arbor eatery includes informing patrons of how their recipes are made and where their ingredients come from.
Rising Star Chef of the Year
The 25-year old, Dearborn pastry chef at Selden Standard has again been nominated for the category, having also been recognized last year. Her seasonal desserts, which currently include the saffron pavlova, grapefruit bay leaf sundae, and Za’atar olive oil cake, are equally as coveted as Selden’s entree options. The New American eatery in Detroit was also dubbed Hour Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year in 2016.
While Howell native James Rigato is the owner behind Mabel Gray, he’s also head chef at the Hazel Park restaurant whose seasonal menu emphasizes local farm products. Mabel Gray has previously been nominated for James Beard’s Restaurant of the Year in 2015.
Before opening the Roman cuisine-inspired SheWolf in Detroit last year, Anthony Lombardo was cooking at Southfield’s Bacco as the chef du cuisine. In 2013, he was invited to be a featured chef at the James Beard House, a high honor to prepare meals for the Foundation’s members.
The Laos native worked at Wayne County’s first Thai restaurant, Bangkok Tiger, before starting her own eatery, Bangkok 96, in Dearborn. For more than 23 years, her Telegraph-road location has drawn in customers from across the metro Detroit area, many of them becoming regulars for her Hot-and-Sour Soup.
Lady of the House, having only been open since 2017, is a fixture of the Detroit food landscape, and deservingly so. The spot, owned by Williams, has earned praise from GQ as being one of America’s top-10 restaurants in 2018.
There’s only one restaurant that knows how to combine Italian and Mexican fare so seamlessly onto one menu. Norberto Garita, the mastermind behind Detroit’s El Barzon, had the idea to curate a menu that paid homage to his upbringing in Puebla and the culinary experience he gained in New York.
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