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Utah chefs and restaurants recognized in 2024 James Beard awards

Urban Hill - chef Nick Zocco at work

The first big date on this year’s food calendar has arrived – today sees the wraps taken off the eagerly anticipated semi-finalist list for the 2024 James Beard Foundation (JBF) awards; the JBF ostensibly being the North American answer to Europe’s heavily worshipped Michelin awards. Say what you like about award contests and pageants – everyone wants to win one. And everyone puts the trophy on their mantle.

The unveiled list sees the Beehive receive six nods for excellence, across three categories. Four Utah toques get a hat tip in the best chef mountain region category this year; a geographic grab bag created in recent times that encompasses the talents of chefs from Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.

David Chon of Bar Nohm receives a first nomination, barely six months into the new Bar Nohm project. I was particularly enamored by the eclectic menu when I first visited last year, and remain so after revisiting. Here’s my original write-up on a nascent Nohm. Fact fans will note neighboring sister-biz Water Witch was a nominee in the outstanding bar program category back in 2022 too.

Next up, veteran Dave Jones of Millcreek Canyon’s Log Haven. The spot routinely tops local lists for best places to clink glasses and celebrate, and rightly so. Jones’ menu is always a reliable one, drawing on global inspiration to infuse big bold proteins.

Ali Sabbah of Mazza Cafe reprises his 2023 nomination once again for his Lebanese classic. Last year Sabbah was the only Utah semi-finalist that made the cut for the grand JBF finals.

The fourth name this year is Nick Zocco (pictured top) of Urban Hill. Zocco is the anchor of an excellent food and beverage team, making his way from Park City’s Tupelo, and the bright lights of Las Vegas before that. The menu at Urban Hill is unmistakably his, New Mexico fingerprints indelibly making a mark all over the place. I first previewed the restaurant in December 2022 with a follow-up piece on their brunch service six months later. I’ve been back time again these past twelve months – it’s my pick for Utah’s brightest restaurant right now (something I recently spoke about with City Cast here on this podcast about Michelin dining in Utah).

Two more nominations round out this year’s list. Table X Bread in the outstanding bakery category – open Tuesday through Saturday, the bakery is the offshoot of the fine dining sit-down spot upstairs (itself a 2020 nominee). Valter’s Osteria completes this year’s Utah nominees, recognized in the outstanding hospitality category.

All eyes now move to April 3rd when the semi-finalists are whittled down again. After that, the Lyric Opera of Chicago beckons on June 10th for a select lucky few.

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