Three Rhode Island Chefs and a Restaurant Named to 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists List

by David Dadekian
Best Chef Northeast semifinalist Benjamin Sukle of birch in Providence

Best Chef Northeast semifinalist Benjamin Sukle of birch in Providence

The 2014  James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards Semifinalists were announced today and a number of Rhode Island chefs and restaurants are included on this year’s list. The semifinalists, in two categories, for our area are:

Best Chef: Northeast:

Outstanding Service: Persimmon

The Semifinalists will be narrowed down to a list of finalists on Tuesday, March 18 and then winners will be announced at the Awards Gala in New York City on May 5 at what is essentially the Oscars® ceremony of the food world. View the complete list of semifinalists here.

Eat Drink RI has thoughts from all the semifinalists below. Congratulations to all the Rhode Island semifinalists!

Matt Jennings, Chef/Co-Owner at Farmstead Inc. (Best Chef: Northeast): “Great list this year. [I’m] Perpetually honored and eternally grateful to chase my dreams. Very thankful to the Foundation for recognizing the amount of hard work my crew puts in everyday. Kate and I feel blessed.”

Lisa & Champe Speidel, Owners and Chef at Persimmon (Outstanding Service and Best Chef: Northeast): “It’s such an honor to be included and we’re grateful for the opportunity to do what we love—together. We work alongside such a dedicated and talented team, both front-of-house and back, so it’s really special to have both crews recognized. Congratulations to all the semifinalists and especially Ben and Matt from Rhode Island—we’re in great company, for sure.”

Benjamin Sukle, Chef/Co-Owner at birch  (Best Chef: Northeast): “I know it’s my name listed and I’m the food but my wife, Heidi, is the restaurant’s soul—without her, I/we would be nothing. Everyone who works their asses off day-to-day and those who were essential in our opening deserve just as much of this recognition: Ed Davis, Alec Herrera, Julianna Sukle, Ed & Linda Dagen, Joe & Louise Sukle, Derrick Teh, Victor Toj, Edgar Moreno, Tessa Calderon, Mike Birkenheier, James Pyecroft, Ian Single, Heena Song, Brian Eckert, Cristina Capriglione, Keith Corbett and to all of the stages who were willing to give us their time. And last but not least, Rhode Island. Rhode Island makes this possible. We’ll never take any of this for granted.”

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