Congrats to Clay Conley for making it to the semifinals of the James Beard Foundation 2013 Best Chef: South awards.
Conley, in case you haven’t gotten your snout out of a Big Mac for the past couple-three years, only has two of the best restaurants in Palm Beach County (side by side, no less): Buccan and Imoto. He’s the only chef from our little corner of paradise to make the Beard semis this year, though he does have two competitors from Miami: Jeff McInnis of the terrific Yardbird Southern Table & Bar and Jose Mendin of the highly regarded Pubbelly.
Not exactly local but still in the running is Scott Hunnel, chef at the opulent Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Lake Buena Vista, one of the few remaining outposts of impeccable formal service, which also earned it a semi spot in the Outstanding Service category.
The only other local chef to get a Beard nod this year is Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami’s Design District, who made the Outstanding Pastry Chef semis.
A couple other people/places that caught my eye. . . John Besh’s superlative New Orleans restaurant, August, where I had my first taste of succulent Mangalitsa pork (from Dave Matthews’ pigs—it’s a great story), is up for Outstanding Restaurant of 2013. Also up are a trio of restaurants I’ve been lucky enough to pig out at: Foreign Cinema in San Francisco, Terra in the Napa Valley and Vincent on Camelback in Phoenix.
So many restaurants, so little time. . .