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Mississippi chef and restaurant named...

Mississippi chef and restaurant named semi-finalists for 2024 James Beard Awards

By: Susan Marquez - February 2, 2024

Vestige in Ocean Spring, Mississippi

The awards are meant to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture.

There’s something very posh sounding about saying you are dining at a James Beard Award-winning restaurant, or that your meal was prepared by a James Beard Award-winning chef.

But do you really know what a James Beard Award is?

Let’s start with James Beard himself. Born in 1903 in Portland, Oregon, James Beard was a cookbook author and chef who celebrated American cuisine and encouraged the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

The New York Times bestowed the title “dean of American Cookery” to Beard in 1954. He wrote twenty cookbooks between 1940 and 1983, many of which are still in print today. Recipes include regional favorites to international cuisine. Beard introduced Americans to new foods and techniques, not just through his cookbook, but through television cooking shows and at The James Beard Cooking School in New York City and Seaside, Oregon. From chefs in fine restaurants to home food enthusiasts, generations were trained and inspired by Beard’s passion for good food.

Through the annual James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards, James Beard is remembered and honored. The Awards are administered by the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization established 30 years ago. The mission, according to the organization’s website, “is to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.”

The road to winning a coveted James Beard Award begins with the nomination process. Anyone can nominate a chef or restaurant through an online form on the James Beard Foundation’s website, and each year there are hundreds of entrants. The Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Award committee and a large panel of judges works to narrow the list down to semifinalists. That list is then narrowed down to nominees, and finally, winners, all overseen by James Beard volunteers.

This year, Mississippi is proud to have two semifinalists in the competition.

For the second year in a row, Hunter Evans of Elvie’s, has been named a semifinalist for Best Chef – South, which includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Puerto Rico.

As a hospitality management major at University of Mississippi, Hunter discovered his love for cooking under the helm of acclaimed James Beard award winning chef John Currence, who won the award in 2009 as chef of City Grocery in Oxford. Evans continued his training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. A Jackson native with strong New Orleans ties, he named his restaurant, Elvie’s, after his grandmother. The food served in the restaurant is inspired by the time spent in his grandmother’s New Orleans kitchen and his travels through Europe. The restaurant’s website describes the menu as “a modern take on classic French cuisine through the lens of Southern culinary traditions and ingredients.”

When the James Beard Foundation announced their 2023 Restaurant and Chef Award nominees in March of last year, Vestige’s owners Chef Alex Perry and his wife Kumi Omori were among the finalists for the Best Chef in the South region category. This year, the restaurant is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurant category that honors a restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations while contributing positively to its broader community. 

The contemporary American restaurant located on the beautiful tree-lined Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs offers a five-course tasting menu inspired by seasonal ingredients and Japanese cuisine.

This year’s nominees will come from the list of semifinalists. The restaurant and chef award nominees will be announced on April 3, and the winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony on June 10 in Chicago. Find out more at

About the Author(s)
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Susan Marquez

Susan Marquez serves as Magnolia Tribune's Culture Editor. Since 2001, Susan Marquez has been writing about people, places, spaces, events, music, businesses, food, and travel. The things that make life interesting. A prolific writer, Susan has written over 3,000 pieces for a wide variety of publications.
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