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James Beard Award-winning Philly chefs honored

Mayor Jim Kenney honored three of Philly's top chefs.
From left, James Beard Award-winning chefs Stephen Starr, Michael Solomonov and Greg Vernick sample cuisine prepared by students at Murrell Dobbins CTE High School after being honored by Mayor Kenney. (Provided)

Ask anyone – Philadelphia is a food town.

Even in the hills of Appalachia or along the expanses of the Mohave Desert, if you hear the word “Philly,” it will more often than not be followed by the word “cheesesteak.”

But food in the City of Brotherly Love means much more than our greasy, meaty, cheese-slathered chef d'oeuvre. The city is home to a rich tapestry of culinary delights, from high-end fine dining to delicious specialty cuisine at smaller eateries.

Earlier this month, three Philadelphia chefs and restaurateurs won James Beard Awards – reputed as the Oscars of the culinary arts – during a ceremony held in Chicago.

On Monday, Mayor Jim Kenney honored these three chefs and restaurateurs – Michael Solomonov, chef and co-owner of Zahav and Federal Donuts; Stephen Starr, owner of several Philadelphia restaurants, including Barclay Prime, Parc and Frandkford Hall; and Greg Vernick, chef and owner of Vernick Food and Drink – during a program with the culinary students at Murrell Dobbins CTE High School in North Philadelphia. Kenney presented the three with mayoral citations and ceremonial Liberty Bells.

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“I am truly honored to have these talented James Beard Award winners representing our great city, and am thrilled to connect these top food professionals with our culinary students at Dobbins,” said Mayor Kenney in a statement. “We applaud these creative visionaries who build businesses that provide jobs and pathways to great careers, as well as raise the profile of Philadelphia as a food destination.”

At the James Beard Awards, Solomonov won the award for outstanding chef, Starr received an outstanding restaurateur award and Vernick received best chef of the Mid-Atlantic Region.

During Monday’s event at Murrell Dobbins CTE High School at 2150 W. Lehigh Ave, which is one of the city’s first community schools – an initiative funded by the Philadelphia soda tax, students offered the restaurateurs samples of their own cuisine for review and were able to participate in a panel with the chefs in order to learn more about the chefs’ work and motivations.