Hawaii shines among Beard semifinalists


POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

Three Hawaii restaurants and three Hawaii chefs are among the semifinalists for the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards, including Alan Wong's Restaurant in the Outstanding Restaurant and Outstanding Service categories.




Hawaii's James Beard Award semifinalists

        The news release and complete semifinalist list online: www.jamesbeard.org/files/ 2009_Semifinalists_Release.pdf

Award archives are also online: www.jamesbeard.org


Outstanding restaurant


Alan Wong's Restaurant, Honolulu


Best New Restaurant


Merriman's Kapalua, Lahaina


Outstanding service


Alan Wong's Restaurant, Honolulu


La Mer at Halekulani, Honolulu


Best chef: Pacific


Hiroshi Fukui, Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, Honolulu


Bev Gannon, Joe's, Wailea


Peter Merriman, Merriman's, Waimea


The list of semifinalists “;used to be super-secret,”; said Star-Bulletin Features Editor Betty Shimabukuro, who has long written about Hawaii's food scene and has pried recipes from many a celebrity chef for publication in these pages.

In more recent years the foundation has taken to releasing the list of semifinalists to the public, indicating the finalists will be selected by a panel of 400 judges.

From the list of finalists, obviously, the winners are chosen.

Despite uber-tough competition, some of Hawaii's culinary glitterati have won the coveted medallion bearing Beard's likeness, including Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's restaurant in 1993; Alan Wong of Alan Wong's restaurant in 1996; and George Mavrothalassitis, of Chef Mavro, in 2003.

They won in the Best Chef Northwest-Hawaii division, but the foundation has since realigned Hawaii into the Best Chef: Pacific category.

Wong's restaurant nomination this year follows two years of his making the semifinalist list as Outstanding Chef - that is, overall, not for a particular region.

Alas, he and other Hawaii chefs, including Bev Gannon, Peter Merriman and Enrique Tariga were among the semifinalists but were omitted from the finalist list last year.

This year the semifinalist list includes Hiroshi Fukui of Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas.

It is his first time as a semifinalist and he was unaware of his preliminary selection until he received your columnist's call.

“;Oh really?”; he said.

“;It's totally like, unexpected, so yeah, definitely, I'm excited.”;

The James Beard Foundation Award is “;like the ultimate chef's award,”; and he is “;honored”; to even make the semifinalists ranking, he said.

He, Gannon and Merriman were chosen from among thousands of entries - 15,000 in all, across all categories for restaurants, chefs, food media and the like.

The final nominees will be announced March 23, and then the nail-biting will begin in earnest, as winners will be announced at a May 4 gala in New York City.


Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).