James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Maggie Huff

Maggie Huff’s desserts offer FT33 guests a taste of something subtly sweet, reflecting a hyper-seasonality that has been the benchmark of Chef Matt McCallister’s critically acclaimed restaurant in the Dallas Design District. She considers herself fortunate to be able to get her hands on superior products such as local honey from Texas Honey Bee Guild, Caprino Royale fresh goat cheese, and produce from the same farmers sourced by the savory side of the restaurant. To that point, she isn’t afraid to employ savory elements—herbs, spices, and vegetables, as well as forms of acid, fat, and salt—to enhance the sweet flavors on the plate.

Prior to FT33, Huff had the media swooning over her sophisticated desserts at Pyramid at the Fairmont Dallas. She originally met and worked with McCallister in the highly lauded kitchen of Stephan Pyles Restaurant. The Dallas native also had a stint in New York City, first attaining her culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute, then working the back of the house in several restaurants, doing both savory and pastry. Her love of food goes back even further: Huff has been baking since she was a kid, cultivating a curiosity in the kitchen while learning from her mother the importance of measuring ingredients.

Nomination: Outstanding Pastry Chef (FT33)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here.

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Steven Cook

After graduating the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Chef Steven Cook completed the Professional Culinary Arts program at the French Culinary Institute in 2000. His education and drive combined make him one of the heavyweights in the Philadelphia scene of restaurateurs and culinary entrepreneurs.

In 2005, as chef-owner of Marigold Kitchen, Cook met his business partner Michael Solomonov. Together, they opened Zahav in 2008. The restaurant earned “4 bells” in its first year from Philadelphia Inquirer critic Craig La Ban. At Zahav, Cook and Solomonov served Israeli cuisine of salatim and mezze, and their collaboration also merged with the restaurant movement for small plates.

In 2012, Food & Wine recognized the pair as ‘Empire Builders’ for their restaurant group, CookNSolo. The empire now spans various cuisines and cites, and their first book Zahav: A World of Israel Cooking earned the James Beard Award for “Best International Cookbook” in 2016. In partnership with Broad Street Ministries, Cook also helped develop soon-to-launch, nonprofit Rooster Soup Company.

Nomination: Outstanding Service (Zahav)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: Greg Vernick

Greg Vernick was born into a family who knew a lot about genuine quality food. His mother ran the Haddonfield Diet Shop in New Jersey, and his grandfather ran their family Philadelphia’s butcher shop Friedman’s Market. A graduate of Boston University, he went straight into CIA’s Culinary Program and soon after, the French Culinary Institute’s Sous-Vide Intensive and Pastry Techniques program.

Vernick moved to New York City to work on the line for the opening of Jean-Georges Vongericten’s Perry Street, under Chef Gregory Brainin. Vernick rose through the ranks and served as sous chef at Jean Georges, Nougatine, and Spice Market and became their corporate chef trainer for restaurants in Qatar, Tokyo, Vancouver, Boston, and Park City, Utah. After five years in the Vongerichten empire, Vernick took his final post away from home as chef de cuisine of New York’s Tocqueville.

In 2012, Vernick returned to Philadelphia and he and his wife, Julie, opened the doors to their first restaurants, Vernick Food & Drink, and soon after he received a James Beard Nomination. He would then be nominated for the award, 2 more times in 2015 & 2016.

Nomination: Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (Vernick Food & Drink)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: David Kinch

A recipient of the Best Chefs in America award for the Pacific region from the James Beard Foundation and awarded two Michelin stars for five consecutive years, David Kinch is creating a legacy in the advancement of California cuisine in the 21st century. At Manresa, his restaurant in Los Gatos, California, where he is executive chef and proprietor, his philosophy is fostered by the “sense of place” of the California Coast, and the kind of ingredient-driven cooking and modern technique he studied in France, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

In 2006, he formed an exclusive partnership with Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which supplies Manresa with year-round provisions and vegetables grown using biodynamic practices. By producing sustainable vegetables, he is creating a closed circle among guests, the garden and his highly personal cuisine. Today, David Kinch is a Dean at the California campus of the International Culinary Center.

Nomination: Outstanding Restaurant (Manresa)

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here. 

James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist: William Wright

Executive Chef William Wright has embraced the art of regionalism and simplicity into his cuisine. He honed his culinary skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in Sicily, where he served under legendary Italian Chef Pino Cuttaia at Ristorante at La Madia, and in New York City at Telepan and A Voce. After moving to Houston, he served as sous chef at Philippe Restaurant and then Table on Post Oak. His menu introduces Houstonians to delicious but unfamiliar flavors and modern trends in Greek cuisine while retaining the simple, healthy, fresh style at the heart of Greek cooking. His menu introduces Houstonians to delicious but unfamiliar flavors and modern trends in Greek cuisine while retaining the simple, healthy, fresh style at the heart of Greek cooking.

Nomination: Rising Star Chef of the Year

For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here.