Awards

Arizona shut out (yet again) from James Beard Award finals

BY Jess Harter Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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No Beards for you!

That was the message to Arizona this morning when the prestigious James Beard Awards, the culinary world’s equivalent of the Oscars, announced its 2017 finalists in dozens of food and drink categories.

Three Arizona chefs who were up for Best Chef Southwest – Charleen Badman from FnB in Scottsdale, Silvana Salcido Esparza from Barrio Urbano in Phoenix, and Jeff Smedstad from Elote Cafe in Sedona – failed to advance to the category’s six-person finals.

Arizona has had nine Best Chef Southwest winners, but has been shut out in the category since Nobuo Fukuda won a decade ago. The region consists of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

Other Arizona nominees who failed to make this year’s finals: Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix (Outstanding Restaurant), Sam Fox of Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts (Outstanding Restaurateur), and FnB (Best Wine Wine Program).

You can see the complete list of finalists in every category here. The 2017 winners will be announced May 1.

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3 Arizonans among 2017 Best Chef Southwest semifinalists

BY Jess Harter Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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This year’s James Beard Award semifinalists were announced this morning and three Arizonans are up for Best Chef Southwest: Charleen Badman (pictured on left) from FnB in Scottsdale, Silvana Salcido Esparza (center) from Barrio Urbano in Phoenix, and Jeff Smedstad (right) from Elote Cafe in Sedona.

The field of 20 semifinalists in each category of the Beard Awards, known as the Oscars of food, will be narrowed to five finalists on March 15. Winners will be announced May 1.

Badman has made it into the semis several times, including last year, but has never made the finals. Esparza last made the semis in 2014.

Conspicuously missing from this year’s list: Kevin Binkley, who closed his Cave Creek flagship restaurant last summer and retooled his Phoenix restaurant into a smaller concept, Binkley’s Restaurant. Binkley had advanced to the finals in four of the past five years.

Arizona has had more Best Chef Southwest winners (nine) than any other state, but has been shut out in the category since Nobuo Fukuda won in 2007. The region consists of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

In nationwide categories, FnB is a semifinalist for Best Wine Wine Program, Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix for Outstanding Restaurant, and Sam Fox of Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts for Outstanding Restaurateur.

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Post image for El Palacio’s Anthony Serrano finishes 6th overall in World Food Championships final

Congrats to Anthony Serrano, who finished sixth Tuesday at the Final Table at the fifth annual World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Ala.

More than 400 professional and amateur chefs faced off in what’s billed as the world’s food sport competition.

Serrano, chef and owner of El Palacio Mexican Restaurant & Cantina, advanced to Tuesday’s final 10 by winning best recipe, one of 10 food categories, over the weekend.

Previous: El Palacio chef makes World Food Championships Final Table

The theme for this year’s recipe category was breakfast. Serrano received $10,000 for winning the category.

Other categories were seafood, barbecue, chili, dessert, bacon, sandwich, seafood, burger, and steak.

Kari Luke of Cissna Park, Ill., who won the steak category, took the overall title and earned $100,000 in cash and prizes.

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Post image for El Palacio chef Anthony Serrano makes World Food Championships Final Table

Anthony Serrano, chef and owner of El Palacio Mexican Restaurant & Cantina in Chandler, won one of 10 category championships at the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Ala., on Sunday.

Nearly 400 professional and amateur chefs squared off at the fifth annual event, which bills itself as the largest competition in food sport.

The winner of each category – seafood, barbecue, chili, dessert, bacon, sandwich, seafood, burger, steak, and recipe – earned $10,000 and a berth in the $100,000 Final Table competition on Tuesday.

Serrano competed in the Recipe category, where this year’s theme was breakfast. He had the highest score in Saturday’s prelims among the top 10 who advanced to Sunday’s final.

Serrano clinched victory with a sausage crumble English muffin topped with a butternut squash and cream cheese purée, purple potato hash, candied sausage and butter poached egg, maple cream butter sauce, and a sausage crumble Parmesan frico.

Another East Valley chef, John Corey of Chef John’s Events & Catering, placed fifth in the Recipe category.

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Post image for Barrio Cafe named best Mexican restaurant in U.S.

Barrio Cafe named best Mexican restaurant in U.S.

BY Jess Harter Monday, June 27, 2016

Barrio Cafe in Phoenix ranks No. 1 on a list of the 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in America compiled Tabelog, an online community of food lovers.

Tabelog says of Barrio Cafe, which was the only Arizona restaurant to make the list:

“Preparing some of the best Mexican cuisine in Phoenix, Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza has created several signature items at Barrio Café. Offering a vast tequila selection, start your night off right with a margarita. Then dig in to the Guacamole del Barrio, which is prepared table-side. For your entrée you certainly cannot go wrong with the Cochinita Pibil, featuring pork marinated in achiote and sour orange. Wrapped in a banana leaf and slow-roasted overnight, the flavors will amaze you. The Barrio Café has certainly earned its spot as one of the top Mexican restaurants in not only Arizona, but in the entire country.”

Barrio Cafe, which is located on 16th Street just south of Thomas, opened in 2002. It has a spinoff at Sky Harbor and a recently launched sibling, Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva, in west Phoenix.

Esparza also helped to launch a concept called Barrio Queen, which has locations in Scottsdale and Gilbert, but she no longer works with the concept and it is not associated with Barrio Cafe.

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Little Miss BBQ named one of top 10 BBQ spots in U.S.

BY Jess Harter Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Post image for Little Miss BBQ named one of top 10 BBQ spots in U.S.

The awards keep coming for Little Miss BBQ in Phoenix. Gayot is the latest to honor the two-year-old Phoenix ’cue joint.

The website, which reviews restaurants and hotels, named Little Miss one of the top 10 barbecue spots in the U.S. alongside such legendary establishments as Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue in Kansas City and Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas.

You can read Gayot’s full review of Little Miss here.

Congrats to owners Scott and Bekke Holmes and their incredible staff.

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Arizona gets skunked again at James Beard Awards

BY Jess Harter Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Post image for Arizona gets skunked again at James Beard Awards

For the ninth consecutive year, Arizona will not have a James Beard Award-winning chef or restaurant. Even worse, this year we don’t even have a finalist.

The culinary world’s equivalent of the Oscars announced its three to five finalists in various cateories, including Best Chef Southwest, the region that includes Arizona.

The two Arizona chefs who had made last month’s ‘‘long list’’ of 20 semifinalists – Kevin Binkley from Binkley’s in Cave Creek and Charleen Badman from FnB in Scottsdale – failed to make the final five.

Two Arizona semifinalists in other categories — Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts (Outstanding Restaurateur) and Pizzeria Bianco (Outstanding Restaurant) — also failed to advance.

Binkley had made the finals for four years in a row. Badman, Fox, and Pizzeria Bianco also made last year’s semifinalists list and failed to advance.

See the full list of 2016 finalists here.

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Post image for Binkley, Badman, Fox & Pizzeria Bianco make Beard Awards semifinalists (again)

Talk about deja vu.

Kevin Binkley from Binkley’s in Cave Creek and Charleen Badman from FnB in Scottsdale are among the semifinalists for Best Chef Southwest in the 2016 James Beard Awards, the culinary world’s version of the Oscars.

BinkleyBadmanFoxIn other categories, Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts (The Arrogant Butcher, Culinary Dropout, Olive & Ivy, and a dozen others) is a semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.

And Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix is in the running for Outstanding Restaurant.

That’s the exact same results as last year when the James Beard Foundation announced its so-called “long lists” of 20 semifinalists in numerous categories.

Each list will be culled to five finalists on March 15. Winners will be announced May 2.

Binkley (pictured on top) has made it into the final five the past four years, but never won.

Badman (middle), Fox (bottom), and Pizzeria Bianco have made the semifinalists lists multiple times, but none of the three has reached the final five in their respective categories.

Arizona has had more Best Chef Southwest winners (nine) than any other state, but has been shut out in the category since Nobuo Fukuda won in 2007.

See the complete list of semifinalists here.

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Post image for House of Egg Roll in Chandler named one of best Chinese restaurants in U.S.

Time Out magazine has come out with a list of the ‘‘Best Chinese restaurants in America,’’ and it includes a Chandler restaurant.

At No. 12, you’ll find the longtime House of Egg Roll, which got new owners last May and has become the darling du jour of the local foodie community:

‘‘Perfectly reflecting Arizona’s Asian-population boom, a former mediocre takeout joint in the Phoenix suburbs has morphed into the ultimate hidden gem without so much as a name change. Count Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Helen Yung, owner of one of the country’s best ice-cream shops, among House of Eggroll’s avid fans. “It reminds me of Xi’an Famous Foods before it expanded all over [New York City],” she explains, citing the menu’s “diversity, authenticity, and quality of execution” well beyond biang biang and liang pi noodles.’’

The East Valley long has been home to the best Chinese (and other southeast Asian) food in Arizona, particularly the mile-wide strip between Dobson and Alma School roads cutting north-south through Mesa and Chandler.

Other destinations in the strip include the Mekong Plaza (with several food-court eateries) and Asian Cafe Express in Mesa, and Lee Lee International Supermarket, China Magic Noodle House, and Chou’s Kitchen in Chandler.

House of Egg Roll is located on the southeast corner of Alma School and Ray. It’s open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-9:30 p.m. every day except Tuesdays.

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Post image for Craft 64 in Old Town Scottdale honored as AZ’s top new ‘hot spot’

Congrats to Craft 64 in Old Town Scottsdale for being named the top new restaurant and/or bar in Arizona in 2015.

Nightclub & Bar magazine partnered with Yelp to choose the “Top-Rated New Hot Spots from 2015″ – one in each of the 50 states.

Craft 64 opened in March 2015 on Main Street just west of Goldwater (map) between Grazie and Old Town Tortilla Factory. It features wood-fired pizzas and 36 Arizona beers on tap.

See the full list of state-by-state hot spots here.

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