This Wednesday evening, pretty much every top chef in town will gather for what's turning out to be the Academy Awards of Miami dining: Johnson & Wales University's first annual Zest Awards.
The invitation-only fete, to take place at the university's Academic & Student Center, is part of the North Miami Campus's 20th anniversary celebration, with Johnson & Wales' culinary students catering the event.
Zest awards will be given in six categories, with nominees selected by both a university awards committee and a readers' poll in Miami magazine. Most nominees are expected at the awards dinner, including Jeff McInnis, Todd Erickson, Pedro Gallardo, E. Michael Reidt, and Juliana Gonzalez.
In a personal shoutout, Short Order alums Aniece Meinhold and Daniel Treiman, along with partner Cesar Zapata, are nominees for the Culinary Innovator award. They face big-name talents Todd Erickson (Haven), Timon Balloo (Sugarcane), and Bjoern Weissgerber (Zuma).
The awards (and nominees) to be presented include:
Honors the local chefs and culinary heroes who have created innovative menu items and restaurant concepts using the latest in technology and techniques.
Todd Erickson, Haven
Bjoern Weissgerber, Zuma
Cesar Zapata, Aniece Meinhold, Daniel Treiman; Phuc Yea!/The Federal Food Drink & Provisions
Timon Balloo, Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Best Restaurant 2012
Given to a local restaurant that stood out above the rest in 2012 both for its delicious food and talented culinary team.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
1500 Degrees at Eden Roc
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Honors a local chef who was either new to South Florida or merely created a new restaurant concept and quickly garnered a loyal foodie following.
Philip Ho, Chef Philip Ho
Jeff McInnis, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Pedro Gallardo, Mare Nostrum
E. Michael Reidt, Area 31
Juliana Gonzalez, Barceloneta
Spanish Bistro & Mercat
Todd Erickson, Haven
Baking & Pastry Innovator
Given to a local baking & pastry chef who has shown exemplary creativity and excellence through innovative menu items and restaurant concepts using the latest in technology and techniques.
Hedy Goldsmith, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Michelle Negron, Timo
Jordi Panisello, Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Olivier Rodriguez, The Biltmore Hotel & Resort
Antonio Bachour, St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort
Marko Krancher, Edge Steak & Bar
Top Beverage Professional
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Given to a local mixologist or sommelier who has shown excellence in finding the best wines or creating the best cocktails.
Isaac Grillo, Haven
Brijette De Berardinis, Blackbird Ordinary
Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, The Broken Shaker
Cynthia Betancourt, Azul
Camille Austin, Hakkasan
Given to a South Floridian who has positively impacted the region through culinary initiatives in the community.
Penny Parham, Miami-Dade Public Schools
Michelle Bernstein, Common Threads
Michael Schwartz, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Lee Schrager, Southern Wine & Spirits