In 2012, Johnson & Wales University's North Miami Campus initiated the JWU Zest Awards, which recognize the local culinary community for excellence.
The awards have become an integral part of Miami's food-and-beverage landscape. Chefs and restaurateurs acknowledge the Zests as Miami's homegrown version of the nationally acclaimed James Beard Awards.
Last year's Zest winners included Brad Kilgore's Alter (best new restaurant), Sugarcane's Timon Balloo (culinary innovator), and Antonio Bachour (baking and pastry innovator).
This year, Zests will be awarded in seven juried categories: Best Restaurant, Best Boutique Restaurant, Best New Restaurant, Best Bar & Lounge, Best Wine Program, Chef of the Year, and Baking & Pastry Chef of the Year.
In addition, there are two categories for Reader's Choice awards: Food & Drink Reporting in Traditional Media and Food & Drink Influencers. The winners are chosen by the public's vote at jwu.edu/zest. New Times has been nominated for a Zest in traditional reporting.
Disclosure: As editor of New Times' food coverage, I am also part of the judging committee for the seven juried categories. I am not in any way involved in the Reader's Choice categories.
The winners will be announced March 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. at an awards reception and ceremony at Johnson & Wales University's Wildcat Center. During the reception, Alison Burgos of Seed Food & Wine Festival will receive the annual community leader award (individual or organization) for her commitment to educating Miami about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here's the full list of 2017 Zest nominees:
Best Wine Program
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Stripsteak by Michael Mina
Chef of the Year
Eileen Andrade, Finka Table & Tap
Jeremy Ford, the Matador Room at Edition
Brad Kilgore, Alter and Brava by Brad Kilgore
Jose Mendin, Pubbelly Restaurant Group
Xavier Torres, Drunken Dragon
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Baking & Pastry Chef of the Year
Simon Bregardis, Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Soraya Kilgore, Alter
John Martinez, Ritz-Carlton South Beach
Michelle Negron, Timo
Levi Richard, Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
Camila Velez, SLS Brickell
Reader's Choice: Food & Drink Reporting in Traditional Media
Edible South Florida
Miami Modern Luxury Magazine
Miami New Times
South Florida Food & Wine
The Naughty Fork
WLRN Topical Currents' "Food News & Views" with Linda Gassenheimer
Reader's Choice: Food & Drink Influencers
Adventures of the Foodaholic
Hungry Black Man
Knock on Food
Miami Food Pug
Mitch and Mel Take Miami
The Hungry Post
To vote for your picks, visit jwu.edu/zest.