Alabama restaurants, 4 chefs among semifinalists for 2018 James Beard Awards

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The winners are announced at a grand ceremony in Chicago on May 7.

Tova du Plessis, who owns Essen Bakery on East Passyunk Avenue, is one of 20 semifinalists for top baker; she was on ther list past year.

Four individuals from Indianapolis were announced as semifinalists in this year's awards: Martha Hoover of Patachou fame for Outstanding Restaurateur, Alan Sternberg of Cerulean for Rising Star Chef of the Year, and two nominees for Best Chef: Great Lakes award in Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard, and Steven Oakley of Oakley's Bistro.

Mike Lata, The Ordinary, Charleston, nominated for Outstanding Chef. Curiously, Cerulean closed in December after five years at The Alexander Hotel.

A few other Carolinas nominations are surprising: The Best Chef: Southeast list also includes Sam Jones, of Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott's BBQ in Charleston, Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani in Asheville, Cheetie Kumar of Garland in Raleigh, Kevin Johnson of The Grocery in Charleston and (not surprisingly) Vivian Howard of the Chef & The Farmer in Kinston.

Cynthia Wong, Butcher & Bee, Charleston, nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef. And Vicia isn't the only local restaurant vying for national honors.

Last year, the Best Chef: South award went to Rebecca Wilcomb of Herbsaint. L'Etoile was nominated in the category of "Outstanding Restaurant" a year ago as well.

L'Etoile is a semifinalist for the second time in a row for Outstanding Restaurant. According to the Foundation, awards are given in more than 50 categories, including Restaurant and Chef, Restaurant Design, and Bar and Wine Program.

Bui - owner of Mekong and The Answer Brewpub restaurants - was named a semifinalist in the Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional category for his work developing Mekong's beer program. This accolade is considered for a chef age 30 or younger who is making an impact on the industry.