James Beard Awards: 7 Birmingham restaurants and chefs honored with ‘Oscars of the Food World’

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Birmingham is a wonderful city for foodies. If you need proof, take a look at the long list of awards our restaurants and chefs have won over the years, including seven – count ’em, seven – James Beard Awards.

These awards, often referred to as the “Oscars of the food world”, are presented by the James Beard Foundation. Established in 1990, the awards are named after an iconic chef, cookbook author, and leading TV personality.

“The mission of the James Beard Awards is to recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media and the wider food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equality, community, sustainability and a culture where all can thrive, The foundation’s website says.

It’s mouthwatering enough, so let’s just say the awards celebrate the best of the best in food and food. And the Birmingham winners are:

Adams Evans of Automatic Seafood & Oysters

Adam Evans is executive chef and co-owner of Automatic Seafood & Oysters in Birmingham, Ala.(Photo by Joe Songer/[email protected])

won: Best Chef in the South, 2022.

Plus: Automatic Seafood was Beard’s nominee for Best New Restaurant in 2020.

In the expression list: Coconut Curry Gulf Shrimp, Duck Fat Poached Swordfish, Roasted Spear Caught Snapper, Seared Tuna Belly, Grilled Oysters, Blackened Amberjack and more.

Nice to know: Evans grew up in Muscle Shoals and graduated from Auburn University. He worked at some of the top restaurants in New Orleans, New York, and Atlanta before returning to his home state to find his own restaurant. Automatic Seafood opened in 2019 in Birmingham’s Lakeview neighborhood, and has earned kudos from Esquire magazine and Thrillist, with a dedicated following.

more info: Automated Seafood & Oysters, 2824 Fifth Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-580-1600 or https://www.automaticseafood.com/.

related: For Alabama chef Adam Evans, the James Beard Award is ‘a dream come true’

Birmingham Restaurant Cope

Highlands Bar & Grill is temporarily closed. Frank Stitt closed all his restaurants in Birmingham. Birmingham restaurants are facing health restrictions in the fight against the coronavirus. (Joe Songer | [email protected]). Joe Songer | [email protected]

won: Outstanding Restaurants in America, 2018.

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Plus: The Highlands were nominated in the category for nine consecutive years before their 2009–2017 victory.

In the expression list: The restaurant’s website says, “Our daily-changing menu, rooted in classic French techniques, features the best from each crop.” “We look forward to cold-weather games of venison and quail, root vegetables and greens; The first spring shad roe and blue-green, live and kickin’ soft shell crabs come a few weeks later, followed by summer shell beans, tomatoes and okra.”

Nice to know: “I think one of the reasons we are all here is that we are so caught up in the magic of restaurants and striving for excellence and trying to create a little bit of beauty in our work and hopefully in our guests. ‘ days,” Chef Frank Stitt said at the 2018 ceremony. “And that comes from the respect in our relationship with our farmers, our employees, our guests. In fact, we have a huge family that has been working on it since 1982, and we have a lot of love in our hearts.”

more info: Highlands Bar & Grill, 2011 11th Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-939-1400 or https://highlandsbarandgrill.com/

Comment: The Highlands has been closed during the coronavirus pandemic but is set to reopen at the TBA date in 2022.

related: An inside look at one of Birmingham’s most popular restaurants

dolester miles

Longtime pastry chef for Stitt Restaurant Group, Dolester Miles began working for Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar and Grill in 1982.(Tamika Moore/[email protected])

won: Outstanding Pastry Chefs in America, 2018.

Plus: According to the Beard Awards website, Miles was nominated in this category for four consecutive years before winning 2014–2017.

In the expression list: Miles earned renown for creating desserts such as lemon meringue tart, strawberry cobbler and chocolate pot de crme. However, his most famous creation is the Coconut-Pecan Cake.

Nice to know: Bob Carlton of AL.com said, “Miles grew up in Bessemer, where she received her early education in dessert making while helping her mother, Cora Mai Miles, and aunt, Queen Esther Harris, bake sweet potato pie and German chocolate cake ” In a 2022 feature story. “After graduating from Venona High School in 1975, Miles studied computer science at Alabama A&M University and Lawson State Community College. She found her true passion when she worked in the pastry kitchen at Vincent’s restaurant in Riverchase. went to do it.”

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more info: After nearly 40 years at the restaurant, Miles retired to the Highlands in December 2021. he started as garde manger, or pantry chef, responsible for Salads and cold appetizers. In 1988 Miles became a pastry chef at Highlands.

related: James Beard Award-Winning Pastry Chef Dolster Miles, An Alabama Treasurer, Retires

Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar and Grill

Frank Stitt of Birmingham’s Highlands Bar and Grill. (Joe Songer | [email protected]).al.com

won: Best Chef in the Southeast, 2001.

Plus: Nominated for Outstanding Chef in America, 2008-2011; Named in the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, 2011; Nominated for Best Chef in Southeast, 2000, 1999, 1998 and 1996.

Nice to know: Stitt is the owner and executive chef of Highlands Bar & Grill, Bottega, Bottega Café and Chez Fonfon. Stitt, a Cullman native, has transformed the dining landscape in Birmingham and has garnered international acclaim in the city since she opened Highlands Bar & Grill. Five Points South in 1982,” said AL.com’s Bob Carlton. “Some of Birmingham’s top chefs and restaurateurs have trained under Stitt in the Highlands and at his and his wife’s other three restaurants.” in a 2013 profile , Garden & Gun called Stitt “the godfather of Southern cuisine”.

more info: Highlands Bar & Grill, 2011 11th Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-939-1400 or https://highlandsbarandgrill.com/

related: For Alabama Chef Frank Stitt, a Different Kind of Normal

Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club

Chris Hastings prepares the Hot and Hot Tomato Salad at his Birmingham restaurant Hot and Hot Fish Club. (Tamika Moore | [email protected])

won: Best Chef in the South, 2012.

Plus: According to the website for the Beard Awards, Hastings was nominated in this category for five consecutive years, 2007–2011, before his win.

Worth quoting: “It’s hard to put this into perspective,” Hastings told AL.com after his win. “We’ve worked all our lives for this moment, and it’s so special here.”

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In the expression list: Wood Oven Roasted Red Snapper, Jim Steak, Seafood Tagliatelle, Duck of Duck, Chicken Roulade, Hot & Hot Tomato Salad and more.

Nice to know: Hastings and his wife Eddie opened Hot & Hot in 1995 at 2180 11th Court South. In 2021, the restaurant moved to a new location in Pepper Place. The couple also own and operate Ovenbird, a live-fire restaurant in Pepper Place.

more info: Hot & Hot Fish Club, 2901 Second Avenue South, Suite 110, Birmingham, 205-933-5474 or https://www.hotandhotfishclub.com/.

related: Chef Chris Hastings on the next chapter of Hot and Hot Fish Club

Birmingham's oldest restaurants

The Bright Star Restaurant has been open since 1907. (Photo by Becky Luigart-Steiner.)

won: America’s Classic Awards, 2010.

it means: “Each year since 1998, the James Beard Foundation Awards Committee has recognized our nation’s beloved regional restaurants,” the foundation’s website says. “Distinguished by their timeless appeal, they serve quality food that reflects the character of their communities. We anoint these locally owned restaurants with a James Beard Foundation Award and designate them as America’s classics. ,

In the expression list: Baked Jumbo Stuffed Shrimp, Greek Style Snapper Throats, Prime Rib of Beef, Breaded Veal Steak, Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs and more.

Nice to know: “No Alabama restaurant is quite as beautiful as Bessemer’s 115-year-old Bright Star,” said AL.com’s Bob Carlton. “The Bright Star was founded in 1907 by Greek immigrant Tom Bonduris and has remained in the Bonduris/Caicos family ever since. … Famous for its Greek-style tenderloin, fried snapper throats, seafood gumbo and coconut pie, Bright Star is one of those classic restaurants that never gets old. It gets better with age.” Carlton included The Bright Star in his list of “15 Alabama Restaurants That Have Standed the Test of Time.”

more info: The Bright Star, 304 19th Street North, Bessemer, 205-426-1861 or https://thebrightstar.com/.

related: New Orleans tradition continues at this historic Alabama restaurant

Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ

Rodney Scott, who was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Hemingway, SC, is the founder of Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ, which has locations in Charleston, SC and Birmingham, Ala. (Joe Songer/[email protected])

won: Best Chef in the Southeast, 2018 for his work at Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina.

Nice to know: Scott was the first Black Chef to win the Southeast Chef Award and only the second Barbecue Pitmaster to win a Chef Award from the Beard Foundation.

Birmingham Connection: Scott partnered with Birmingham restaurateur Nick Pihakis to open the Magic City branch of his restaurant. Rodney Scott’s BBQ made its debut in 2019 in the Avondale neighborhood, the former location of Saigon Noodle House and Bottletree Cafe. A Homewood location was added in 2021 at 2701 18th St South, Unit 100. Another location is planned for Trussville.

In the expression list: BBQ Pork Sandwich, Spare Ribs, Beef Brisket, Turkey Club Sandwich, Pig Out Salad, Catfish Fingers, Prime Rib Sandwich and more.

more info: Rodney Scotts BBQ, 3719 Third Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-506-2711 or https://www.rodneyscottsbbq.com/locations/.

related: The Story of Rodney and Nick, Brothers at the Barbecue

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