First Bites

Miami's James Beard Semifinalists Cook Together at Bazi

This year, the James Beard Foundation recognized many of Miami's best chefs as semifinalists for its prestigious annual awards. Though the chefs didn't make the final cut, that didn't take away their joy at getting a nod. The chefs got together to celebrate the best way they know how — by cooking. 

Chef Michael Pirolo had the idea to host a collaborative dinner at his restaurant Bazi. "As soon as the nominations came out and I saw how many of our friends were nominated too, the first thing I did was group-text everyone and say, 'Let's do a dinner together!'"  

Pirolo says just being nominated is an honor. "It feels really good to be recognized among so many amazing restaurants and chefs." It seems his fellow Miami nominees feel the same way.

Pirolo says his colleagues were up for the challenge. "They all confirmed pretty quickly, even before we had a cohesive idea of how we would structure the dinner. We were all excited to be able to collaborate on a dinner together and celebrate our nominations."

The chefs at the dinner fell into two Beard categories: Best Chef: South — Jose Mendin (Pubbelly, PB Station), Giorgio Rapicavoli (Eating House, Glass & Vine), Michael Pirolo (Macchialina, Bazi), and Deme Lomas (Niu Kitchen); and Rising Star Chef of the Year — Bradley Kilgore (Alter). Alter was also a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category. 
Although each chef was tasked with turning out an individual course, a peek into the kitchen revealed the chefs helping one another on the line. That spirit of community in the industry, coupled with pride in their home base, is what the evening was all about. According to Kilgore, "We wanted to come together as chefs, representing the city of Miami. We felt it was, and is always, important to support each other as much as the people here have."
Deme Lomas kicked off the evening with dorada crudo with parsley aioli, roasted tomato, and crispy jamón ibérico.
Jose Mendin followed with Wagyu beef carpachio milanese with Taleggio cheese, smoked tomatoes, concasse tomatoes, green strawberries, and black garlic soy.
Chef/host Michael Pirolo served morel mushroom risotto topped with speck-spiced foie gras, Villa Manodori aceto balsamico, and basil.
Kilgore's coriander-seed-glazed short ribs with crisped cabbage and roasted giardiniera was a hearty dish, served family-style.
For dessert, Rapicavoli offered a light sour-milk panna cotta with preserved lemon curd, cured egg yolk, and olive oil. For some reason, the table was gifted with a second portion, which was quickly gobbled up.
In all, these talented toques showed they are proud to be recognized by both Miami and the larger culinary community. And as for those Beard Awards? Pirolo sums it up: "I always say keep your head down, work hard, and the success will come. That's what I've always done, and that's what I plan to do this year." 
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss