A new addition to St. Louis’ restaurant scene joins three repeat semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: Midwest” award.
Jesse Mendica of Olive + Oak, which opened in early 2016 (and was No. 1 on our critic’s list of the year’s best new restaurants), is a first-time Beard semifinalist.
The other St. Louis semifinalists are Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Café, Mike Randolph of Público and Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus.
Nashan and Willmann have been semifinalists multiple times this decade. Randolph was a semifinalist for the first time last year.
Both Nashan and Willmann were among the five finalists last year for the “Best Chef: Midwest” award, which was won by Paul Berglund of the Minneapolis restaurant the Bachelor Farmer. Berglund is a St. Louis native.
Ashley Shelton of Gerard Craft’s Pastaria is a semifinalist for “Rising Star Chef of the Year,” given to a chef age 30 or younger “who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”
This is the second national award to honor Shelton. Last year, dining website Eater named her one of its “Young Guns.”
Craft was named “Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015, his sixth time as a nominee. He is the first St. Louis-based chef to win a James Beard Award, generally regarded as the nation’s most prestigious culinary honor. (He isn’t eligible to win “Best Chef: Midwest” again.)
The finalists in each category will be announced March 15. The winners of the awards will be announced May 1 at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala, held at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
The foundation announced last month that Gioia’s Deli of St. Louis received the “America’s Classics Award,” just one of five restaurants nationwide to receive the honor.
The James Beard Awards are voted on by a panel of several hundred food and restaurant writers and previous James Beard Foundation award winners. Post-Dispatch restaurant critic Ian Froeb sits on the committee.