Food Friday: What's up with those James Beard semi-finalists?

The James Beard Award semifinalists were announced Tuesday, and it's all anyone who talks about food in D.C. could talk (and tweet) about.


D.C. is heavily represented on the extensive list of pre-nominees. The official (smaller) list of finalists will be announced on March 19.

But who in D.C. actually wins these things? And how have they done since?

• In 2008, Michel Richard won the Best New Restaurant award for Central. (This year, Little Serow and Fiola are semifinalists in the category.)

Central still ranks in Washingtonian's survey of the top 100 restaurants in the city and received 2.5 stars from Post critic Tim Carman about a year ago.

Richard's Tyson's Corner restaurant, Michel, closed suddenly last Saturday, but he's opening three restaurants at the Revel resort in Atlantic City, which should cushion the blow.

Verdict: He's getting by.

• CityZen chef Eric Ziebold took home the award for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic in 2008. That's the same year he won Chef of the Year at the RAMMYs.

Ziebold hasn't launched anything new since September 2009, when he opened Sou'Wester, CityZen's sister restaurant, which is also in the Mandarin Oriental.

But why should he have to? CityZen maintains a four-star rating from the Post and a position on Tom Sietsema's most recent fall dining guide. It also received a semifinalist nod this year in the Outstanding Wine Service category.

Verdict: He's coasting on years-old success, which is an admirably chill way to do things.

• José Andrés won the Outstanding Chef Award last year for minibar by josé andrés, where it remains incredibly difficult to get a reservation.

The chef has recently turned to political commentary and is launching a new food truck, Pepe, in the coming weeks. The Chinatown branch of his tapas restaurant, Jaleo, will close Sunday for about a month for renovations.

Verdict: He's running with his success in a delightful way.

Other local nods:

Joe Yonan, editor of the Post's food section, has received two James Beard awards, both since 2008, for newspaper coverage. The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU won one for its 2009 food programming.

Last year, former City Paper critic Tim Carman took home an award for his food-related columns and commentary.

While it was slightly irritating to read the same news about the James Beard Awards from nearly every source of food news on Tuesday, I won't dismiss their importance.

But in this week's wonderful City Paper profile of the ubiquitous celebrity chef Mike Isabella, owner of Graffiato and the soon-to-open Bandolero, Isabella said:

“Even though, to us, it’s the biggest accolade you can get, other people are like ‘What’s a James Beard?’ I mean, that’s not going make [investors] give me money.”

With Tuesday's coverage as evidence, I don't know how any potential backer of a new restaurant wouldn't know what a James Beard Award is.

After the jump: News unrelated to awards of any kind!

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