(Left) Chris Amendola, chef at foraged., and (right) Steve Chu, chef at Ekiben, are semifinalists in the James Beard Foundation's award category for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic." Meanwhile, Foreman Wolf’s Charleston restaurant (center) is a semifinalist in the “Outstanding Hospitality” category. Photos courtesy of foraged, Charleston, and Ekiben (Ekiben photo by David McIntosh Photo Graphics).

Two Baltimore chefs and a restaurant are semifinalists for awards from the James Beard Foundation, one of the most distinguished honors in the culinary world.

The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced the semifinalists for its 2023
Restaurant and Chef Awards.

Among them are a handful of leaders in Baltimore’s food scene, including Chris Amendola, chef at foraged., and Steve Chu, chef at Ekiben, both in the “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” category; and Foreman Wolf’s Charleston restaurant in the “Outstanding Hospitality” category.

After selling their Asian-fusion cuisine at the Fells Point Farmers Market, Ekiben opened their first brick-and-mortar shop in 2016 in Fells Point. Since then, they have opened locations in Hampden and, just this year, in Riverside. Chu started the business with Nikhil Yesupriya and Ephrem Abebe.

Chef Chris Amendola’s foraged eatery, known for its “hyper-seasonal” and frequent use of foraged ingredients, opened in Hampden in 2018. In 2021, the restaurant moved to Station North.

Charleston is one of several restaurants and businesses under the Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group, helmed by restaurateurs Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf. Located in Harbor East, the waterfront fine dining restaurant’s menu is “rooted in French fundamentals and the Low Country cooking of South Carolina,” according to Charleston’s website.

Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, applauded this year’s semifinalists Wednesday, saying this awards season marks “a year of fundamental changes.”

“This is always an exhilarating moment as we kick off the Awards cycle and recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals and teams across the country,” Reichenbach said in a statement. “After a year of fundamental changes, we look forward to building on the progress made, celebrating those paving a better future for us all—through their talent and craft, service to others, and commitment to a better, more sustainable industry. We look forward to sharing more exciting details for the 2023 ceremonies in the coming days.”

Tanya Holland, chair of the James Beard Awards Committee of the James Beard Foundation Board of Trustees, also gave her congratulations.

“It is exciting to see deserving talent across the industry be recognized for their achievement—and that the changes we made to our policies and procedures are still bearing fruit,” Holland said. “I am honored to be part of a program that can have a positive effect on so many.”

Adrian Miller, chair of the Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee, said this year’s semifinalists represent a range of culinary professionals.

“We are so thrilled to recognize this year’s Restaurant and Chef Awards Semifinalists, a truly diverse group of talented individuals across the culinary industry,” Miller said.

Finalist nominees for the Restaurant and Chef Awards will be announced March 29, alongside Leadership Award Winners, Humanitarian of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees.

Check out the full list of Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists here.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...

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