In the Outstanding Bakery category, Buena Gente Cuban Bakery in Decatur and Unforgettable Bakery & Cafe in Savannah were both named semifinalists for the first time.
The news that Unforgettable Bakery was a semifinalist caught owner and self-trained baker Belinda Baptiste by surprise. “What? Wow! That’s so crazy cool,” said Baptiste, a Haitian native who opened her shop in 2009 and in recent years expanded her product line to include Haitian baked goods. “To be recognized is really awesome.”
Several local chefs were named semifinalists in the Best Chef: Southeast category: Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips of Lazy Betty in Candler Park, Terry Koval of The Deer and the Dove in Decatur, Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor of Heirloom Market BBQ in northwest Atlanta, Sahar Siddiqi of Chai Pani in Decatur and Deborah VanTrece of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours.
Other than Lee and Taylor, who were named semifinalists in 2020, all the chefs in the category are first-time semifinalists, though Lazy Betty was a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category in 2020.
VanTrece was shocked to hear of her nomination in the regional chef category. “No Way! Oh wow. I am getting ready to cry,” she said. “It feels pretty damn good after such a long time on this journey.” Besides operating Twisted Soul, VanTrece opened two restaurants in 2022 — Oreatha’s at the Point and Serenidad. Construction is expected to start on a new concept this spring.
In addition, Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore, and Emanuel Reed, who own Nashville-based Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria, were named in the Outstanding Restaurateur category. There are two Slim & Husky’s locations in Atlanta.
Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards are among the nation’s most prestigious honors recognizing leaders in the culinary and food media industries.
Awards finalists will be announced on March 29, and winners will be revealed June 5 at a ceremony at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
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