Arizona chefs, restaurants fall short in James Beard Award finals

Mar 15, 2017, 12:58 PM
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PHOENIX — The quest to bring home a prestigious James Beard Award has ended this year for Arizona, when finalists were announced Wednesday.

Arizona hasn’t had a winner since 2007.

In the chef category, Charleen Badman of FnB in Scottsdale, Silvana Esparza of Barrio Urbano in Phoenix and Jeff Smedstad of Elote Cafe in Sedona, came up short.

Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco was passed over for outstanding restaurant; Sam Fox, whose multiple restaurants include Olive and Ivy, Culinary Dropout and Flower Child, all in the Valley, had been nominated for outstanding restaurateur; FnB also was up for best wine program.

The three chefs had earned Southwest semifinal spots in February.

Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah also compete in the Southwest region.

Badman has been nominated four straight years and told KTAR’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes in February, “It’s always an honor” to be on the list.

Nobuo Fukuda was the last Arizona winner. Fukuda opened the much-praised Sea Saw in Scottsdale in 2002. He closed the restaurant in 2007, but opened Nobuo at Teeter House in downtown Phoenix in 2010.

Winners will be announced May 1 in Chicago.

The Beard Foundation began awarding the prizes in 1990. The awards are often described as the “Oscars of food.”

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Arizona chefs, restaurants fall short in James Beard Award finals