Five Hawaii chefs were named semifinalists today for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards.
The shortlist in 21 categories of awards includes:
>> Maui chef Sheldon Simeon’s new restaurant, Lineage, for best new restaurant
>> Honolulu’s Ed Kenney — chef and owner of Town, Mahina & Sun’s, Mud Hen Water and Kaimuki Superette — as best restaurateur
>> Michelle Karr-Ueoka of MW Restaurant as best pastry chef
These three are national awards. Also semifinalists are chefs Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush of Senia as best chefs in the Western region.
For Simeon it is his third semifinalist nod; in 2011 he made the list in the rising-star category for chefs age 30 and under, and in the same year his restaurant, Star Noodle, was named to the best new restaurant list.
Lineage in Wailea opened in October. “It’s so surreal … to be recognized so early,” Simeon said. “We didn’t think we’d be on the list.”
It has been more than a decade since anyone from Hawaii has moved on from the semifinalist list to the finalists. George Mavrothalassitis of Chef Mavro was the last to claim an actual prize, a regional best chef award in 2003.
The final list of nominees will be announced March 27, with the awards gala on May 6.
Semifinalists are nominated by a volunteer group of more than 250 industry panelists around the country, then reviewed by a committee of the James Beard Foundation. Finalists are chosen by more than 600 judges, who also vote on the winners.
For a full list of semifinalists go to jamesbeard.org.