The prestigious James Beard Foundation this morning announced its 2020 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists, and the list includes “Top Chef” Season 13 contestant Chad White of Spokane for his ceviche restaurant Zona Blanca at 154 S. Madison St. in downtown Spokane.
White is nominated alongside 21 others in the category Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington). White, who was eliminated after the third week of “Top Chef” on Bravo, also owns two locations of High Tide Lobster Bar in Spokane in the Numerica and Wonder buildings and TT’s Old Iron Brewery and BBQ in Spokane Valley.
“Oh my goodness, never in my wildest dreams did I think that this was going to happen,” White said Wednesday morning.
Asked why he thought he received the nod, White said he didn’t know.
“Whoever nominated us, I appreciate it,” he said. “I think that what we serve and what we do deserves recognition. (The other nominees are) pretty big hitters, and I can think of a million other restaurants in the Northwest that I would consider more deserving.
“At the same time, I don’t want to take this away from my team. This is really all my team’s work. I had a vision to bring ceviche to Spokane, and I’m glad I did. Four years ago, when I first pitched the idea that we were going to open a ceviche bar, people were like, ‘Ceviche in Spokane? That will not work. You’re crazy.’ ”
Zona is one of only five ceviche restaurants in the country north of California coast to coast, White said.
All of his restaurants are doing really well: “Zona Blanca is the most mature. It’s in a tough location, but people still come out and support us. TT’s has not slowed down one bit. It is a steam-rolling monster. We’re still trying to figure out how to get our reins around it.
“And High Tide, the same thing. I just love lobster rolls and wanted to make them more readily accessible. To see Spokane embrace it and it really take off, this last year has been a spectacular year, and I just couldn’t be more proud of my team and feeling more blessed than I am right now.”
The newly nominated White isn’t slowing down.
“We’re back with Crave this year,” he said. “Last year, opening three restaurants in one year was a bit ambitious.”
White said he has a few projects in the works.
“Nothing is in ink yet, but we’re definitely having some fun conversations with some big movers and shakers in town that I can’t really talk about right now,” he said. “We’re looking to build all the restaurants into a restaurant group and continue to fine tune and learn what Spokane is looking for in terms of other potential concepts and see how we can continue to contribute to what’s happening here.”
White said it’s been fun to be part of Spokane’s “exploding” culinary scene.
“It’s incredible to see what the chefs are doing in this area,” he said.
Jeremy Hansen was a James Beard semifinalist in 2015 for Sante Restaurant & Charcuterie in downtown Spokane; Adam Hegsted in 2016 for Wandering Table in Kendall Yards; Laurent Zirotti in 2017 for Fleur de Sel in Post Falls; and Anna Vogel in 2018 for Italia Trattoria in Browne’s Addition.
The annual James Beard Awards includes categories such as Outstanding Chef and Rising Star Chef, and the final Restaurant and Chef Award nominees, along with nominees for Media and Restaurant Design Awards, will be announced on March 25 in Philadelphia.
The 2020 James Beard Awards presented by Capital One mark the 30th anniversary of America’s most coveted and comprehensive honors for chefs, restaurants, journalists, authors and other leaders in the food and beverage industry.
The 2020 James Beard Awards Gala is May 4 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The 2020 Leadership Awards are May 3 in Chicago, as well, and the 2020 Media Awards are April 24 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City.
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