The 2017 James Beard Awards nominees were announced today and Chef Benjamin Sukle of birch and Oberlin in Providence has been named a finalist in the Best Chef: Northeast category. This is the first time in many years since a Rhode Island chef has moved up from the semi-finalist list to a nomination.
Sukle called to offer his thoughts on his nomination. “What can I say but tell you what I told everyone at birch and Oberlin,” Sukle said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is their nomination as much as mine. I know they’re just as responsible for bringing this to the table. I’m just honored to be the sheepherder, the one fortunate enough to wrangle these cats.”
Diners at either of Sukle’s restaurants, which he owns with his wife Heidi and runs with a team clearly deserving of his praise, won’t be surprised by the nomination. I had dinner at birch recently and posted, “People travel to Chicago for Alinea, to NY for Eleven Madison Park, to Paris and Spain for you-name-the-top-50-restaurant, Providence has one in that stratosphere, on a list or not. You should experience birch, even if you think it’s outside your comfort zone (it’s not), if only because it’s world-class at a fraction of the price.”
Winners will be announced at the Awards Gala in Chicago on May 1st at what is essentially the Oscars® ceremony of the food world.