New Orleans nominees shut out at 2023 James Beard Awards

Bardstown master distiller finalist for James Beard Award
Winning a James Beard Foundation Award can change the entire career trajectory of a chef, baker or restaurant.(tcw-wave)
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 7:19 PM CDT
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CHICAGO (WVUE) -- New Orleans nominees came up empty Monday (June 5) at the culinary industry’s Oscars, the 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards.

The city’s three hopefuls each had to be satisfied this year with being named finalists for the prestigious medals, a significant accomplishment in its own right.

Chef Serigne Mbaye of Dakar NOLA (3814 Magazine St., 504-493-9396) was a finalist in the Emerging Chef category, but the award went to Damarr Brown of the Chicago restaurant Virtue.

Mbaye serves up a traditional West African tasting menu with a modern twist, using local and seasonal ingredients. Mbaye started with pop-ups before opening his restaurant late in 2022.

Chef Ana Castro was a finalist for Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR) for her work at the Mexican-flavored Lengua Madre (1245 Constance St., 504-655-1338). The restaurant has quickly gained a reputation for its creative cuisine and innovative use of local ingredients. But the category was won by Chef Natalia Vallejo of the restaurant Cocina al Fondo in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The New Orleans restaurant’s name Lengua Madre means “mother tongue” in Spanish, and reflects Castro’s belief that food is a powerful way to connect with one’s cultural heritage. Castro, who arrived in New Orleans from Mexico City by way of Texas, has worked in some of the world’s top restaurants, including Noma in Copenhagen and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. She brings this international experience to Lengua Madre’s tasting menu, where she creates dishes that are both deeply rooted in Mexican culinary traditions and infused with her own unique flair.

And in the Outstanding Bakery category, New Orleans landmark Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-486-0078) also was named a finalist. The old-school Sicilian bakery, which has been serving up pastries and gelato for more than a century, has become a beloved institution in New Orleans’ culinary scene. But on Monday, the Beard award went to Kansas City’s Yoli Tortilleria.

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