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Culinary conquerors

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  • | 11:00 a.m. March 2, 2018
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If it's Oscar time, it's also James Beard time.

Known as the “Oscars of food,” the James Beard Foundation Awards recognize the best of the best in the U.S. restaurant industry, from chefs and bakers to writers, educators and businesspeople. The 2018 edition of the James Beard Awards features a pair of prominent area restaurant personalities. The nominees are:

• Lauren Macellaro of the Reading Room in St. Petersburg, nominated in the Best Chef, South category. Macellaro hails from New York, where she attended the Institute of Culinary Education before she relocated to the Sunshine City. Prior to becoming chef at the Reading Room, she thrilled the taste buds of diners at Locale Market in St. Petersburg; and

• Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group, nominated in the outstanding restaurateur category. Gonzmart has become synonymous with Tampa Bay's rising reputation nationally among foodies: His family business is behind The Columbia — with locations in Ybor City, Sarasota, Orlando, Clearwater Beach and St. Augustine — as well as Ulele and Goody Goody in Tampa. His company is also developing a waterfront restaurant project on Longboat Key.

Gonzmart is the latest in a long line of restaurateurs in his family: His great-grandfather founded the original Columbia restaurant in 1905, and the Columbia Restaurant Group remains family owned and operated.

The winners of the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards will be announced on March 14 in Philadelphia. The awards were established in 1990 in honor of Beard, a cookbook author and restaurateur who appeared on the nation's first televised cooking show. Dubbed the “dean of American cookery” by the New York Times, Beard died in 1985 at age 81.


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