The finalists have just been announced for the fifth-annual Johnson & Wales University's Zest Awards, which celebrate excellence in South Florida's culinary arts scene.
This year, the Zest Awards will honor Miami's leaders in the local food scene in nine categories at a private reception at Johnson & Wales University's North Miami Campus (JWU) Wednesday, March 16.
Bruce Ozga, dean of culinary education at JWU, says the awards are a chance for the community to acknowledge local professionals in Miami's ever-growing food-and-beverage industry. “Miami continues to command attention for the creativity and staying power of some of our greatest restaurants. We're proud to count a number of recurring nominees and winners among an impressive group of newcomers in this year's awards."
The winners in seven categories — including Best Restaurant, Best Boutique Restaurant, Best New Restaurant, Best Bar/Lounge, Best Wine Program, Baking and Pastry Innovator, and Culinary Innovator — are selected by an advisory board of industry leaders and faculty from JWU's College of Culinary Arts.
The new Eater's Choice Award asks the public to vote on the most influential moment in Miami's food scene in 2015 and includes everything from Miami's taco and raw bar trends to the closing of beloved Calle Ocho institution Hy Vong. Dean Ozga believes this award taps into the very heart of Miami's restaurant scene. “We felt it was important to recognize so many of the iconic and memorable moments in Miami’s culinary scene this year. They truly define the rich history of our community and future as a major culinary destination." Miami diners can vote for what they think is the most defining food moment of 2015 between February 2 and March 1 at jwu.edu/zest.
In addition, Rev. Ronald Brummitt, president of Miami Rescue Mission, will be presented with the community leader award for his dedication to feeding the hungry and homeless in South Florida.
Last year's winners included Zak Stern (baking and pastry chef of the year), Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami (best bar/lounge), Zuma (best wine program), Pubbelly Restaurant Group (best culinary innovator), Mignonette (newcomer of the year), Drunken Dragon (best boutique restaurant), Palme d'Or at the Biltmore Hotel (best restaurant), Miami Food Pug (best food blog), and Miami New Times (best food reporting). Michelle Bernstein was honored with the 2015 community leader award, both for her culinary achievements and her dedication to the charity Common Threads.
Here's the full lineup of the 2016 nominees:
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Baking and Pastry Innovator
• Antonio Bachour, St. Regis
• Camila Velez, Bagatelle
• Giselle Pinto, Sugar Yummy Mama
• Josh Gripper, the Dutch
• Keith Wallace, Meat Market
• Michelle Negron, Timo/Basil Park
• Samantha Frei, Essensia
• Michelle Bernstein
• Myles Chefetz
• John Kunkel
• Ralph Pagano
• Stephen Starr
• Tim Andriola
• Timon Balloo
Eater’s Choice: Miami’s Big Food Moment of 2015
• Michelle Bernstein reopens Michy’s as Cena.
• The Lunchbox, Miami's first zero-waste restaurant, opens.
• The Seed Wine & Food Festival returns after a successful first year.
• The unexpected closure of Hy Vong on Calle Ocho in Little Havana.
• Fox's Sherron Inn closes after 69 years.
• Cronut creator Dominique Ansel's Art Basel pop-up.
• The taco and raw bar trend (Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, Coyo Taco, and Midtown Raw Bar) explodes in Miami.
• Univision senior special correspondent Maria Antonieta Collins gives the pope empanadas.
• Restaurants like BLT Prime and Pamela’s help Doral and Westchester break out of their culinary shell.
• The Broken Shaker wins America's best hotel bar and is listed as one of the top 50 bars in the world.
You can tweet about the Zests using @JWUNorthMiami, hashtag #JWUZest.