Mita's, Nolia and Chef Elaine Uykimpang Bentz of Cafe Mochiko Nominated for James Beard Awards

The winners will be celebrated at an awards ceremony in Chicago in June.

Mar 30, 2023 at 7:48 am
click to enlarge Nolia is a nominee for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards. - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Nolia is a nominee for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards.

A Cincinnati chef and two Cincinnati restaurants were announced as nominees for the prestigious 2023 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards. The nominees were announced during a live ceremony at the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville Wednesday, March 29.

“The James Beard Awards celebrate outstanding achievement and exceptional culinary talent, as well as all those doing incredible work on behalf of our communities and wider food system. This year’s nominees, winners, and honorees are inspiring exemplars of that,” Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, said in a press release.

The Restaurant and Chef Awards are one of five of the James Beard Foundation’s recognition programs. Widely considered to be one of the country’s most prestigious honors, the awards recognize those in the culinary and food media industries who demonstrate outstanding talent and a commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability and a culture where everyone can thrive.

Up for nomination in the category of Outstanding Restaurant is Mita’s in Downtown Cincinnati. This category looks for a restaurant that “demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations, while contributing positively to its broader community," according to the foundation. Owned by James Beard-nominated chef Jose Salazar, Mita’s menu focuses on Spanish- and Latin-American-inspired cuisine and tapas.

Nolia in Over-the-Rhine, which serves up twists on classic Southern flavors, was nominated for Best New Restaurant. In order to be considered for this category, the restaurant had to have opened between Jan. 1-Sept. 30, 2022 and should already be demonstrating excellence in its cuisine, as well as in hospitality and operations. The restaurant should also be making an impact on the community.

As for Cincinnati chefs, Elaine Uykimpang Bentz (formerly Townsend) at Cafe Mochiko in East Walnut Hills is up for consideration in the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker category. Uykimpang Bentz was also nominated for the Outstanding Baker category in 2022.

Mita's, Nolia and Chef Uykimpang Bentz were announced as semifinalists for the awards in January. Chef Francisco Alfaro from Mid City Restaurant in downtown Cincinnati and chefs Hideki and Yuko Harada from Kiki in College Hill were named semifinalists for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region (IL, IN, MI, OH), but ultimately did not move onto the nominee round.

The James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award winners will be celebrated at a ceremony on Monday, June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The ceremony will also be streamed on Eater.

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