Orlando Area 2013 James Beard Award Semifinalists

The James Beard Awards are like the Oscars for American gastronomy. Established in 1990, the James Awards have been naming a "best of" for every aspect of the industry; restaurants, chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook authors, food journalists, wine and bar programs, customer service, restaurant designers, architects and more—the James Beard Awards are the highest honor a food and beverage professional working in North America can get. Each winner gets a certificate and a medallion, but there are no cash prizes. It's simply the ultimate in bragging rights. The awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The following from the Orlando area are semifinalists. The final nominees will be announced Monday, March 18th, 2013. I can't wait to see who makes the cut. 

Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista, FL

Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon, Orlando, FL
Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park, Winter Park, FL
James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park, FL
Hari Pulapaka, Cress, DeLand, FL

First, this is making me want to eat at Victoria & Albert's more than ever. The only reason I haven't dined here yet is that the acclaimed chef's table books a solid six months in advance. Let's see, what am I planning this September?

I am most hopeful that either Ravenous Pig or Luma gets an award. Both are on my personal favorite list so it would make me very happy. It's also nice to see that while Orlando might not be a culinary mecca (there are far too many chains for my liking) it is growing up as a food town and starting to get some notice from the outside world. The makers of the Ravenous Pig have brought us Cask & Larder, and the restaurateur behind Luma brought us Prato. Maybe they'll make the list next year? And more importantly, maybe these semifinalists will inspire other great restaurants to open in Central Florida.