Philly-area restaurants, chefs among 2020 James Beard Award semifinalists

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Known as the Oscars of the restaurant business, the list of semifinalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards were revealed on Wednesday.

And there's no surprise here, but Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley are well represented.

"I cried. I was on the floor crying saying, 'I did it! I did it!' and I kept crying," says Nok Suntaranon, who owns the BYO Thai restaurant Kalaya in Bella Vista.

Kalaya was nominated for "Best New Restaurant."

It's food from her kitchen and her culture. The restaurant is named for Suntaranon's mother.

"Kalaya is my mother's name," she says. "It means beautiful lady."

No stranger to James Beard Award nominations, Marc Vetri won the best chef Mid-Atlantic award in 2005. Now, he's up for "Outstanding Chef."

For the second year in a row, Bolete in Bethlehem is up for "Outstanding Restaurant."

Other nominees have also been to "The Beards" before.

Jesse Ito of Royal Izakaya is nominated for "Rising Star Chef." This is his fourth nomination.

Tova du Plessis from Essen Bakery also received her fourth nomination for "Outstanding Baker."

There are some newcomers.

Cookie Till, of Steve & Cookie's in Margate, is up for "Outstanding Restaurateur."

Jean Broillet from Tired Hands Brewing Company in Ardmore is nominated for "Outstanding Wine, Beer and Spirits Producer."

Le Caveau in Bella Vista just opened in October and it's up for "Outstanding Wine Program."

And in the "Best Chef Mid-Atlantic Category," there's a big Philly showing:

  • Joey Baldino of Collingswood's Zeppoli and South Philly's Palizzi Social Club

  • Rich Landau of Vedge in Center City

  • Nicholas Elmi of South Philly's Laurel

  • Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa

Each of those chefs has been nominated before all are still waiting for a win!

The finalists will be announced on March 25 in Philadelphia.

Click here for the full list of nominees.
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