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Mazza’s Ali Sabbah makes James Beard Award finals

Mazza - kebabs and rice

After January’s semi-finalist nominations gave us all cause to raise a glass, this one should have us emptying the bottle. Mazza‘s Ali Sabbah has been named as one of the five best chefs in the “Mountain” region by the James Beard Awards; that taxonomy by the way covers Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, as well as the good ol’ Beehive.

The James Beard Awards are for all intents and snooty purposes, the Michelin stars of America, albeit without the myopic predilection for Euro-centricity. Indeed the complete list of chefs in this years best Mountain toque are an eclectic mix of culinary tradition:

  • Salvador Alamilla, Amano, Caldwell, ID
  • Michael Diaz de Leon, BRUTØ, Denver, CO
  • Suchada Johnson, Teton Thai, Teton Village, WY
  • Kris Komori, KIN, Boise, ID
  • Ali Sabbah, Mazza, Salt Lake City, UT

The nod is a huge boost for the business which in the recent Covid era (pummeled by cost increases and tempered demand) was forced to make strategic retreats from two of their three locations. The business now operates singularly from the original 15th and 15th spot, where the magic all began back in 2000. The modern Mazza is now a much grander affair mind you, hands up who remembers the paper plates?

Throughout those preceding two decades of cooking, Sabbah’s Levantine-styled menu has been routinely recognized for its attention to detail, not least consistent quality of execution. In a recent SL Mag interview he confirmed, “We are not here to cut corners,” he says explaining that many other restaurants use pre-made shortcuts and frozen supplies. “We make our food, every day from scratch. I slice the lamb myself. In doing so we show respect for the dishes the tradition.”

Here in Utah the restaurant has picked up just above every award in the known universe, everything from City Weekly’s yearly mega compendium through the most recent edition of Salt Lake Magazine’s dining awards. The grand finale of the JBF awards will be held June 5th in Chicago, here’s hoping the Mazza team snag a first for Utah!

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