Top chefs talk James Beard nominations

Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran of Little Nonna's, Jamonera, Barbuzzo and others were nominated in the Outstanding Restauranteur category.  Credit: Jason Varney
Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran of Little Nonna’s, Jamonera, Barbuzzo and others were nominated in the Outstanding Restauranteur category.
Credit: Jason Varney

Last week the prestigious James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalist nominations for this year’s Restaurant and Chef Awards. We spoke with a few of the locals on the list to see how they found out, and how they celebrated. The finalists will be announced on March 18, and the winners will be revealed on May 5.

 

Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney (we spoke with Safran)

Nominated for: Outstanding Restaurateur. The duo owns several Center City restaurants.

How does it feel to be nominated? We’re totally honored. There is so much involved in running restaurants to make them successful as a restaurant and a business. To be in the same category as Stephen Starr is just crazy.

Any insider tips on being a successful restaurateur? Work your butt off, listen to your customers whether you like it or not, be a role model to your employees, and watch every dollar that goes out your door.

 

Nick Elmi

Nominated for: The most recent “Top Chef” winner’s Laurel (1617 E. Passyunk Ave.) is nominated for Best New Restaurant

How did you learn you were nominated? Someone tweeted me congratulations. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t think we’d be close.

Did you celebrate when you heard? We had to do Philly Cooks that night, but we had fun at the event. We were high-fiving everyone.

 

Ben Puchowitz

Nominated for: Rising Star Chef of the Year, Cheu Noodle Bar (255 S. 10th St.)

How did you learn you were nominated? I woke up on Wednesday morning and my Twitter feed was filled with congratulations. I had no idea the Beard nominees were being announced, nor did I expect to be on any list.

How does it feel to be nominated? It means a lot to me. The Beard Foundation is a big deal. To be recognized by them as a Rising Star Chef means that we’re doing something right. Restaurants, and especially chefs, need that reassurance every now and again.

 

Kate Jacoby

Nominated for: Outstanding Pastry Chef, Vedge (1221 Locust St.)

What’s your best, James Beard-worthy dessert? Sweet potato arancini, with basil-lime sorbet, halva cream, pho-spiced orange supremes. I love the use of sweet potato and savory/umami-rich flavors.

How did you learn you were nominated? Twitter. We were at a meeting and Rich [Landau] showed me a Twitter mention congratulating me. Rich was beaming. I smiled, but then quickly wondered out loud, “What about you?” A moment later, he showed me his phone again, this time telling me about his nomination.

 

Rich Landau

Nominated for: Best Mid-Atlantic Chef, Vedge

What’s your best, James Beard-worthy dish? Eggplant braciole. It’s smoked eggplant wrapped in eggplant. I get inspired by doing the unexpected.

How does it feel to be nominated? I’m honored. I don’t even care as much about winning, I’m just simply thrilled to be recognized for what we do.

 

Joe Cicala

Nominated for: Best Mid-Atlantic chef, Le Virtu (1927 E. Passyunk Ave.)

How does it feel to be nominated? It’s always a tremendous honor to be nominated for an award of this magnitude. Not just for me, personally, but for the Avenue [East Passyunk]. There are so many great chefs and restaurants down here doing amazing things with food.

Did you celebrate? We cracked open a sparkling white wine. I toasted my co-workers and thanked them for putting in the long hours.



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