Two Salt Lake City chefs named James Beard finalists

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Two Salt Lake City chefs were named finalists for the prestigious James Beard award this morning, up from just one last year.

The list included a return from Mazza chef Ali Sabbah, whose restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine has been a favorite in the 15th & 15th neighborhood for years. Sabbah was nominated last year but ultimately not chosen as a winner for the Mountain States region.

It also includes Urban Hill chef Nick Zocco, whose restaurant quickly became a fine dining anchor for the newly built Post District in its first full year of being open. 

The pair were the only two Utah chefs who were named finalists on Wednesday morning.

They’re competing against chefs in Montana, Breckenridge and Denver for the top spot for the region. Brandon Cunningham, chef of Social Haus in Greenough, Montana, Matt Vawter, of Rootstalk in Breckenridge, and Penelope Wong, of Yuan Wonton in Denver are the other nominees for the Mountain region.

The James Beard Award is considered one of the highest honors in the restaurant world. The foundation named a longer list of semi-finalists earlier this year, which included a longer list of Salt Lake restaurateurs. 

Previously, Valter’s Osteria had been named a semi-finalist for best in hospitality nationwide. Table X, in Millcreek, was a contender for outstanding bakery nationwide. Both didn’t move on to the latest round and won’t be among the winners.

Also cut were Bar Nohm chef David Chon and Log Haven chef Dave Jones.

Zocco and Sabbah will know whether they’ve been named the region’s winner on June 10 in Chicago.

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.