James Beard 2017 Semifinalists: Brad Kilgore and Zak the Baker Among Miami Nods

The James Beard Foundation has just released the semifinalists for its annual awards ceremony, and South Florida made the grade on several fronts.

The Beard Awards are the culinary world's equivalent of the Oscars, and winning an award — or even being nominated — can mean more customers for a restaurant and an upward trajectory for a chef.

Restaurant and chef semifinalists for the 27th-annual Beard Awards are selected from a list of more than 24,000 online entries.

Once again, Brad Kilgore (Alter and Brava) is a semifinalist for the Rising Star Chef, presented to a chef aged 30 or younger "who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come. He was nominated for the same award last year. "It's an honor to be selected again for Rising Star," Kilgore says of the nod. "It's been a goal of mine for my whole career. My team and I at Alter just keep our heads down and keep cooking. If we make it to the finals, that's a victory in itself."

Deme Lomas (Niu Kitchen) and Clay Conley (Buccan in Palm Beach) are semifinalists in the category Best Chef: South, as is former Miamian Nina Compton, who is nominated for her New Orleans restaurant, Compère Lapin. Lomas was nominated last year in the same category.

Zak the Baker
Zak the Baker

Wynwood's Kyu is up for Best New Restaurant, competing with heavy-hitters such as Bastion in Nashville, Olmsted in Brooklyn, and Le Coucou in New York City.

Miami's most beloved bread-maker, Zak Stern, AKA Zak the Baker, has received a nod for Outstanding Baker, and Stephen Starr (Upland, Le Zoo, the Continental, Makoto, and Steak 954) was nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Miami, however, was shut out of Outstanding Bar Program, Outstanding Pastry Chef, and Outstanding Chef, though Andrew Carmellini (the Dutch) was nominated for Outstanding Chef for his work at Locanda Verde in New York.

Being nominated is the first step in the journey to a Beard Award. On Wednesday, March 15, the list of finalists in all categories will be revealed at a news conference in Los Angeles. The announcement will be broadcast online via the Foundation's Facebook Live feed.

Winners will be announced at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago Monday, May 1.

A complete list of 2017 Beard semifinalists can be found at jamesbeard.org.

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