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James Beard Award 2024 Best Chef Semifinalists: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont

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We continue our feature on the James Beard Foundation’s semifinalists for best chef in New England. The James Beard Awards celebrate culinary excellence and are a hallmark of achievement in the food industry. Celebrating the epitome of gastronomic innovation and skill, these talented chefs have risen to the forefront, captivating taste buds and pushing the boundaries of culinary artistry.

Massachusetts

Photos by Alyssa Blumstein Photography

Nightshade Noodle Bar, Lynn

Nightshade Noodle Bar

Head Chef: Rachel Miller

About: French- and Vietnamese-inspired seafood-focused tasting menus (priced by course, changing daily) and tropical cocktails in an ambiance that exudes “chic jungle vibes.”

Unique Menu Items: Nightshade caviar service, chilled Portugese percebes (goose barnacles), grilled coconut sticky rice pops, bone marrow banh mi, claypot caramel foie gras, marblehead urchin brûlée, “tiger’s blood” palate cleanser.

Chickadee, Boston

Chickadee

Head Chef: John daSilva

About: Located in Boston’s Seaport, Chickadee is named for the Massachusetts state bird and features a Mediterranean-inspired menu.

Unique Menu Items: Cheddar biscuits, smoked sea trout dip, torched bluefin tuna, chive spaetzle, squid ink fusilli, whole-roasted red fish, duck three ways.

Tallula, Cambridge

Tallula

Head Chef: Conor Dennehy

About: Seasonally changing menus – an a la carte menu and a five-course tasting menu with an optional wine pairing – that change by the day to reflect seasonality and the restaurant’s relationship with local farmers.

Unique Menu Items: Chicory salad, sourdough gnudi, braised carrot, farm chicken, braised pork shank.

Photos by Matt Li (bottom right), Aaron Chang (bottom middle) and Tracy Chang

Pagu, Cambridge

Pagu

Head Chef: Tracy Chang

About: Expertly creative tapas-style Spanish-meets-Japanese cuisine.

Unique Menu Items: Suckling pig board, roasted miso black cod, roasted big eye tuna collar, roasted bone marrow and mushrooms, squid ink oyster bao, Guchi’s midnight ramen, matcha cookie, black sesame tofu.

Gustazo Cuban Kitchen & Bar, Cambridge

Gustazo Cuban Kitchen & Bar

Head Chef: Patricia Estorino

About: A Spanish word meaning “great pleasure,” Gustazo features experimental Cuban cuisine in an architectural atmosphere that evokes the spirit of Havana.

Unique Menu Items: Yuca frita (fried yuca with truffle oil mojo, cilantro aioli, and truffle zest), tambor de papas (Cuban shepherd’s pie), piquillos rellenos (halibut-stuffed piquillo peppers), ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a delicate tomato sauce).

Suya Joint, Boston

Suya Joint

Head Chef: Cecelia Lizotte

About: Traditional high-end Western African cuisine in a casual setting.

Unique Menu Items: Beef Suya, goat pepper soup, beef samosa, wet- and dry-fried goat meat, dry-rubbed Suya wings, vegetarian taushe stew, jollof (“one pot”) plantains with meat, Puff Puff (Nigerian sweet, soft dough balls fried to “golden perfection”).

Rubato, Quincy

Rubato, Quincy

Head Chef: Laurence Louie

About: Traditional Hong Kong and Cantonese comfort food with a modern twist.

Unique Menu Items: Steamed char siu baos, congee (slow-cooked savory rice porridge), ji cheung fun (steamed savory rice rolls with various toppings), house-milled soy milk, “famous” fried chicken bolo sandwiches, Nutella-filled Hong Kong french toast.

New Hampshire

Otis Restaurant, Exeter

Otis Restaurant, Exeter

Head Chef: Lee Frank

About: A five-course tasting menu that changes weekly and features Modern American cuisine driven by local farm-sourced ingredients.

Unique Menu Items: Squash soup with yogurt and pumpkin seeds; salmon tartare with cucumber, radish, and dill; scallops with fennel and dill; duck with turnip, barley, carrot, and sour orange; lamb with potato, brussels sprouts, garlic, shallot, and sherry; sticky toffee pudding with bourbon caramel, and vanilla creme chantilly.

Vermont

Photos by Katie Palatucci

Paradiso Hi-Fi, Burlington

Paradiso Hi-Fi

Head Chef: Micah Tavelli

About: A “music-forward” experimental restaurant and listening lounge that features custom-built turntables in the main dining area.

Unique Menu Items: Salmon croquettes with cherry bomb aioli and butternut squash remoulade; sweet potato latkes with turnip kraut, apple, and cultured cream; grenki (Russian French toast) with black bread, alpine cheese, fermented beets, and dill; koji-cured venison; coal-fired acorn squash; celery root pie; bone-in monkfish; single ice cream scoops (cider swirl, rye bread, charcoal, and brown butter cranberry).

Photo by Kristin Teig

Honey Road, Burlington

Honey Road

Head Chef: Cara Chigazola Tobin

About: Women-owned and operated mezze featuring Eastern Mediterranean fare.

Unique Menu Items: Brown sugar-harissa chicken wings with dried lime labne; Tamarak Sheep Farm lamb kofta with green olive, walnuts, pickled red onion, and Lewis Creek Farm celery root tzatziki; carrot kisir with honey labne, citrus, almond, and crispy carrot served with endive and radish for scooping.

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