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A history of James Beard winners and semifinalists in Indy

There are 38 Indy James Beard Award winners and semifinalists from years past — let’s get to know them a little bit ahead of the 2024 awards.

INDYtoday: INDY_James Beard awards Bluebeard_APR24

When it comes to recognition by the James Beard Foundation, Bluebeard is the most decorated restaurant in Indianapolis.

The newest cycle of James Beard Award finalists dropped yesterday, and while no Indy finalists were named this time, we’re still reminded how lucky we are to live in a foodie city. Let’s take a look at past James Beard Award cycles and how many Indianapolis chefs and institutions have made the cut.

Winners

Indy has only had one winner since the James Beard Foundation started handing out awards in 1991: St. Elmo’s Steak House, which won in the America’s Classics category in 2012. The America’s Classics Award, established in 1998, is “given to locally-owned restaurants that serve quality food, have timeless appeal, and reflect the character of their communities.”

Semifinalists

Since 2010, nine local chefs have been honored as Best Chefs semifinalists, many of them on repeat occasions — and we’re excited to see what the future holds. Just last month, two-time Rising Star Chef of the Year Semifinalist Alan Sternberg replaced James Beard veteran Abbi Merriss at Bluebeard’s helm.

Restaurateur Martha Hoover, the force behind Cafe Patachou, Napolese Pizzeria, Public Greens, and the late Apocalypse Burger, has also been recognized an astounding six times as an Outstanding Restaurateur semifinalist.

Three restaurants have been named semifinalists in different categories: Love Handle, Beholder, and Bluebeard. All are still open (lucky for us).

INDYtoday: INDY_Love Handle James Beard awards_APR24

Love Handle was recognized in 2020 for Outstanding Hospitality — a nomination that makes perfect sense to regular patrons.

Photo by @luvhandy

Here’s a full list of every James Beard semifinalist in Indianapolis:

Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard

  • 2023 Best Chef Great Lakes
  • 2020 Best Chefs
  • 2019 Best Chefs
  • 2018 Best Chefs
  • 2017 Best Chefs
  • 2016 Best Chefs

Thomas Melvin of Vida

  • 2024 Best Chefs
  • 2022 Best Chefs

Martha Hoover of Patachou Inc.

  • 2020 Outstanding Restaurateur
  • 2019 Outstanding Restaurateur
  • 2018 Outstanding Restaurateur
  • 2017 Outstanding Restaurateur
  • 2016 Outstanding Restaurateur
  • 2013 Outstanding Restaurateur

Love Handle

  • 2020 Outstanding Hospitality

Beholder

  • 2020 Outstanding Wine Program

Steven J. Oakley of Oakley’s Bistro

  • 2019 Best Chefs
  • 2018 Best Chefs
  • 2011 Best Chefs
  • 2008 Best Chefs

Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth

  • 2017 Best Chefs
  • 2016 Best Chefs

Alan Sternberg of Cerulean

  • 2018 Rising Star Chef of the Year
  • 2016 Rising Star Chef of the Year

Micah Frank of Black Market

  • 2015 Best Chefs

Greg Hardesty of Recess

  • 2016 Best Chefs
  • 2015 Best Chefs
  • 2014 Best Chefs
  • 2013 Best Chefs
  • 2012 Best Chefs

Neal Brown of The Libertine Liquor Bar

  • 2014 Best Chefs
  • 2013 Best Chefs

Regina Mehallick of R Bistro

  • 2014 Best Chefs
  • 2013 Best Chefs
  • 2012 Best Chefs
  • 2011 Best Chefs
  • 2010 Best Chefs

Bluebeard

  • 2013 Best New Restaurant
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