Three Fil-Am chefs named 2019 James Beard Awards semifinalists

THE James Beard Foundation has announced the list of semifinalists in the running for its 2019 Restaurant and Chef Awards and three Filipino American chefs have made the list. The awards,presented to recognize culinary professionals in the United States, are sometimes called the “Oscars” of the food world.

Tom Cunanan
(Photo from instagram/@tomccunanan)

For the third year in a row, Tom Cunanan of Bad Saint is once again nominated for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic while République’s Margarita Manzke makes a return appearance in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category.

Sheldon Simeon’s new restaurant in Hawai’i called Lineage, is up for Best New Restaurant.

In an Instagram post, the official account of Bad Saint congratulated their beloved Cunanan and said “His creativity, vision, and superlative food are the beating heart of this restaurant.”

Cunanan co-owns the restaurant with Genevieve Villamora and Nick Pimentel and collectively, they came up with the menu that captivated both diners and food critics alike. Bad Saint is named after St. Malo, Louisiana, where the first Filipinos settled in the United States.

Cunanan was also named Star Chefs D.C.-Chesapeake Rising Star in 2018 and Eater named Bad Saint as one of America’s 38 essential restaurants.

The Eater blurb mentioned the challenge to this 24-seater dining destination: its no reservations policy. That aside, eating at Bad Saint is a must and as Bill Addison, the new Los Angeles Times food critic wrote last year, “The payoff: Tom Cunanan’s peerless Filipino cuisine. Inspirations like piniritong alimasag (fried soft-shell crab in spicy crab-fat sauce) also brilliantly signal the Chesapeake region in which he cooks.”

Last January, the restaurant also announced that it is now accepting limited reservations, which means that diners do not have to wait outside for hours, although there will be seats for walk-incustomers.

Margarita Manzke

Margarita Lorenzana Manzke and her husband Walter run Republique, a French restaurant in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles that the couple opened in December 2013. Last year, Los Angeles Times named it one of the “101 Restaurants We Love” and called Manzke’s desserts as “terrific riffs on classics…so good that you’ll forget to Instagram it”.

According to their website, Margarita oversees Republique’s Pastry Department, bakes the wildly popular breads, and is largely responsible for the success of the daytime Café. In 2017, Margarita and Walter opened Sari Sari Store, a Filipino Rice Bowl Stall, in Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Margarita grew up in the kitchen since her family owned and operated a hotel and a restaurant. Her grandparents founded the Lorenzana Food Corporation, which was famous for their patis (fish sauce) while her parents owned and managed the White Rock Resort in Subic.

After studying pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in London, Margarita enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America in New York, where she received her degree in Culinary Arts.

The couple also co owns the wildly popular Wildflour chain in Manila with Margarita’s sister Ana Lorenzana de Ocampo. They opened the first one in BGC back in 2012 and now they have five locations across the metropolis.

Sheldon Simoen
(Photo from Instagram/@chefwonder)

Top Chef alum Sheldon Simeon posted his thanks on his Instagram account.

“Words can’t even start to describe on how honored it is to be recognized by @beardfoundation amongst the great chefs and restaurants whom I only have the utmost respect for,” he said.

Simeon opened Lineage, his second solo restaurant in October last year. He opened Tin Roof in Maui, his first venture back in 2016. He was in two seasons of the Bravo reality show Top Chef, first in the show’s 10th season in Seattle and in the show’s 14th season shot in Charleston.

Lineage’s menu is a nod to Simeon’s Filipino heritage as well as his growing up years in Hawai’i.

A Hemispheres feature showcased one of the restaurant’s specialties: lauya, a bone broth soup famous in the northern regions of the Philippines.

“The restaurant is right down the street from several fancy hotels, so we wanted to showcase an off-cut, like beef shank,” Simeon told the magazine, “something that’s going to take time to cook properly.”

“Bone broth with ginger is already warming and soothing,” Simeon added. “We always have herbs left over from other dishes, so we throw those in, too.”

The winners will be announced on March 27 and the James Beard Awards Gala will happen on May 6 in Chicago. 

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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