James Beard Awards 2018: More Puerto Ricans Could Use A Win
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In 2012, Puerto Rican chefs on the island became eligible to compete in the James Beard Awards. They are in the “Best Chef South” category competing with Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. Chef and colleague Ibrahim Sanz reached out to me to ask if I would vote for him in the 2018 James Beard awards. Of course!
The winner of 2017 Best Chef South was beloved Santurce chef, Jose Enrique. Enrique has been extremely indispensable in the hurricane Maria relief efforts in regards to assisting fellow chef, Jose Andres in feeding millions of people on the island via funds from Andres’ organization, World Central Kitchen. A lot of the service workers there are having to flee the island because they can’t work. But, some of the restaurant and bars are open for business during this time as a place for community to gather. For some reason I got a hair up my tuchus and decided to vote for other Puerto Ricans doing extraordinary things in the food and beverage industry. I’d be so incredibly grateful to you if you could also take a moment of your time and vote for them.
1. Outstanding Baker | Diego Martin-Pérez, Levee Baking Co., New Orleans, Louisiana
Although Diego says he has only been baking bread for “like a year,” he has been doing some stellar work. Including his Mallorcas; a sweet bun almost unheard of on the mainland that you can find in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Other than myself, I don’t know anyone else producing them for the public.
2. Outstanding Bar Program | La Factoria, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
This bar sits around the corner from our beloved Calle San Jose/Calle Sol apartment in Old San Juan. It’s got all of the character of a building that’s probably from the 1600s (if not sooner), and all of the vibrance from a young business. Voted one of the best 50 world bars. Also, you can see some people dancing in it from that damn Despacito video.
3. Best Chef Mid-Atlantic | Ibrahim Sanz, Haven Restaurant in Edgewater, New Jersey
4. Best Chefs New York City | Manolo Lopez, Mofongo, NYC, NY
It was only a few months ago when celebrated cook Manolo Lopez decided his New York mofongo food truck would translate back on the island. So, he decided to open a kiosk in Lote 23 in Santurce, sharing a communal property with several other chefs including Paxx Caraballo-Moll of Baoricua. Lopez was in NYC when Maria hit. He decided to shut down his food truck business a little earlier in the season and headed for the island with his cousin, Carmelo Varela, who is a film director and photographer and has been documenting the entire time. Manolo said, “I finally have clearance to head down to Puerto Rico in a relief flight provided by JetBlue for my team & myself. This will be the last weekend Mofongo NY will open this season, on Tuesday [October 10, 2017] we leave to the Island to contribute in any way we can. My time in PR will be indefinite, even though I have previous engagements in Latin America, once they’re done I’ll head back again. Thank you for all the messages of hope, donations and more. There is much to do and my place is with my people. I hope to see you all at the markets this weekend…Puerto Rico or nowhere.” The team was on their way to feed “1k people in Quebradillas” as of October 15.
5. America’s Classics | La Bombonera, San Juan, Puerto Rico
They poured four-years and endless money into revamping La Bombonera, making the 102-year-old restaurant and bakery into a modern dream with marble countertops and penny subway tiles.