La Casita Mexicana in Bell was the only L.A.-area nominee in the James Beard Foundation Awards' Outstanding Restaurant category when the foundation announced its semifinalists on Thursday in New York. Los Angeles chefs dominated their regional category and new blood in the local food scene is making inroads into the national categories.
Meanwhile, Felix Trattoria (Venice), Kismet (Los Felix) and Vespertine (Culver City) earned spots on the Best New Restaurant list.
While the City of Angels struck out nationally for Outstanding Chef, seven of the 20 semifinalists for Best Chef in the West (California, Hawaii, Nevada) are in L.A. County: Josef Centeno (Orsa & Winston), Michael Cimarusti (Providence), Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon), Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), Travis Lett (Gjelina), Niki Nakayama (n/naka) and Tony Xu (Chengdu Taste). Carlos Salgado of Costa Mesa's Taco Maria also made the list.
On the short list for Outstanding Restaurateur were local empire-builders Caroline Styne, whose Lucques group is behind Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern and others; and Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon Group (Cassia, Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Rustic Canyon, etc.).
Miles Thompson of Michael's, Liz Johnson of Freedman’s and Jonathan Yao of Kato made the list of nominees for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Elsewhere, Or Amsalam and Alex Phaneuf of Lodge Bread Company (Culver City) shared a nomination for Outstanding Baker. And Margarita Manzke of République (Hancock Park) was tapped for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
In the Outstanding Service category, local contenders are n/naka, Park's Barbecue and Providence.
When it came to libations, Bar Clacson (downtown) was nominated for “Outstanding Bar Program,” while A.O.C. (Beverly Grove) was nominated for “Outstanding Wine Program.”
The semifinalists, spread across 21 categories, were winnowed down from more than 20,000 entries. The finalists will be announced March 14 in Philadelphia.