The chefs behind two Cleveland restaurants were recognized as semifinalists in this year's James Beard Awards — a nod from one of the highest honors in the culinary world.
In the national Outstanding Restaurateur category lands Brandon Chrostowski, the name behind fine-dining and social entrepreneurship concepts Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute, Edwins Bakery and edwins too. On the regional level, three chefs from Larder Delicatessen & Bakery — Allie La Valle-Umansky, Jeremy Umansky and Kenny Scott — were all named semifinalists, too.
Chrostowski learned about the James Beard nomination just moments after boarding a train in Ukraine, on his way to collaborate with chef Ievgen Klopotenko. The two chefs will prepare dishes for soldiers and hospitalized children in Leviv and Kyiv. Chrostowski is set to return on Jan. 31.
"I've got, like, eight more hours. The point is, I made it with four minutes to spare. When I found out, I was just happy I made it on the train," Chrostowski says, exasperated. "This is great, are you kidding me?"
This marks the second year in a row that Chrostowski has been up for a James Beard award, in the same category.
"The restaurateur category is nationwide, it's not a regional pocket. It feels good, I'm going to celebrate tomorrow with Ievgen, a Ukrainian chef. We'll celebrate by delivering food to people who need it, and do some other good work out here," Chrostowski says. " Right now, it's been a day, but it feels great."
La Valle-Umansky and Umansky were in a state of shock when they heard the news on Wednesday.
"In years past, I've had potential announcement days on my calendar — we didn't have any of that. We were not paying attention, we were totally taken aback," Umansky says. "Allie and I were so tired and beat up from the holiday season leading into that. We're just completely shocked."
Larder was previously named a finalist for the same award in 2020. Umansky shouted out Larder's loyal customers and following in Northeast Ohio.
"We're ridiculously grateful to Clevelanders for their support," Umansky says. "You can't have a successful business without people coming in. We count our blessing for that everyday."
Michael Schwartz, the chef behind Michael's Genuine, was also nominated for a James Beard award, in the "Outstanding Chef" category. Michael's Genuine's flagship is in Miami, Florida, with another eatery in Shaker Heights' Van Aken District.
The Beard Foundation will announce the finalists on March 29.
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