The James Beard Foundation has announced its nominees for the best chefs around the country, and two of our hunky, homegrown hubbas are among this year's picks: Chef Dean James Max (pictured left) of 3030 Ocean, in Fort Lauderdale; and Chef Zach Bell of Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach. It seems as though the Beard judges read our minds this year, because we were thinking precisely the same thing just as we heard of the announcements, to whit: "Dean and Zach are just so close to perfect in every way that it boggles us why they haven't been nominated for a Best Chef in the South Award ... oh wait! They have!"
Apart from their indisputable hottitude, we like these two because of their commitment to local and sustainable fish, meat, and produce, and their willingness to put their money (or their bosses' money) where their mouth is. Both chefs have hosted Slow Food events at their restaurants in the past few months: Max focusing on seafood and Bell on meat (although Max did serve a delicious grass-fed T-bone from Deep Creek Livestock in Deland, and Bell had farmed Sturgeon on his menu from Mote Marine Laboratories in Sarasota). Both can think of extremely interesting things to do with tomatoes and greens grown in Loxahatchee (from Walt Ross and Swank Farms, respectively).
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Our boys are competing against some serious heavies, though. In Miami, Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Douglas Rodriguez of Ola, Philip Ruiz of the Palm D'Or, and Edgar Leal of Cacao are all competing in the same category. But up here in Broward Palm Beach, we know who really knows how to handle an eggplant.