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While you weren’t looking, St. Louis’ food scene became a big deal across the country.

May 1st saw the foodie’s version of the Oscars in the form of the James Beard Awards.

Gioia’s Deli on The Hill picked up an award last night – the James Beard’s America’s Classics Award.

Taking home the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest was Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. fame. (Also nominated this year, Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus Restaurant).

Nashan was a finalist last year, as well as in 2014. He was a semifinalist in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

This is the second time in three years that St. Louis has brought home the award. Gerard Craft won Best Chef: Midwest in 2015. Craft’s Niche Food Group owns Brasserie, Taste, Pastaria, Porano Pasta, and the new restaurant Sardella (located in the space of Craft’s former restaurant, Niche).

Craft’s James Beard win was the first for St. Louis, and Nashan’s win won’t be the last.

The buzz around St. Louis restaurants is building.

Just last week, St. Louis was named one of “6 U.S. Cities to Watch in 2017” by Condé Nast Traveler, and food was at the forefront in their description of the city:

When it comes to food, St. Louis, once the fourth-largest city in the country, is top of mind as a barbecue city—and chances are, you’re either a Bogart’s Smokehouse fan, or Pappy’s Smokehouse loyalist. Yet the city is more than just smoke, ribs, and brisket—in recent years, it’s become a foodie paradise: In one (very full) afternoon, you can sample ramen bowls (Vista Ramen), po’ boys (Peacemaker Lobster and Crab), and handmade pasta and small Italian plates at Katie’s Pizza & Pasta.

The last two years have seen several native St. Louisans return home to opening critically lauded restaurants. Nathaniel Reid opened his eponomous Nathaniel Reid Bakery in Kirkwood last year. Reid was named U.S. Pastry Chef of the Year in 2010, and one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by 2012 Dessert Professional Magazine.

And Food mag Eater recently proclaimed, “One of the Year’s Biggest Openings Is Happening in St. Louis,” with the opening of Vicia in the Cortex district. Michael and Tara Gallina (who came from James Beard Award-winning restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York) opened Vicia at the end of March to great fanfare. Michael is a St. Louis native and was excited to return home because as he told St. Louis Magazine, “I wake up every day thinking, ‘Why can’t one of the next best restaurants in the country be in St. Louis?'”

The restaurant from which they came, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, is run by Dan Barber who was featured in episode two of the first season of the Netflix series “Chef’s Table.” His restaurant has twice been named to the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

We wouldn’t be surprised if Tara and Michael are the next James Beard Nominees from St. Louis.

When it comes to progress in St. Louis many view the city’s glass as half-empty. But the restaurant scene is exploding, and it should be a source of pride for people in our area.

 

 

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