Four James Beard Foundation Semifinalist Nominations For Indianapolis

Nominees include Patachou founder Martha Hoover, Bluebeard’s Abbi Merriss, Steve Oakley of Oakleys Bistro, and Cerulean’s Alan Sternberg.
At a press conference this morning, the James Beard Foundation announced the 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards nominees. According to the Foundation, awards are given in more than 50 categories, including Restaurant and Chef, Restaurant Design, and Bar and Wine Program. Four individuals from Indianapolis were announced as semifinalists in this year’s awards: Martha Hoover of Patachou fame for Outstanding Restaurateur, Alan Sternberg of Cerulean for Rising Star Chef of the Year, and two nominees for Best Chef: Great Lakes award in Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard, and Steven Oakley of Oakleys Bistro.

Hoover, owner and proprietor of the Patachou family of restaurants (Cafe Patachou, Petite Chou, Public Greens, Bar One Fourteen, and Crispy Bird, as well as the Patachou Foundation) has been nominated three times for Outstanding Restaurateur, in 2013, 2016, and 2017.

This is the second nomination for Rising Star Chef award for Alan Sternberg, who was a semifinalist for the award in 2016. Curiously, Cerulean closed in December after five years at The Alexander Hotel. Sternberg, who had been with the restaurant for four years, is moving forward with Common House, a pop-up supper club project he began with his wife and business partner, Audra, in 2017. IM previously noted that Common House aims to be “a traveling, themed dinner series based on Sternberg’s journeys throughout his culinary career.”

This year marks the third-straight nomination for Bluebeard’s Abbi Merriss in the Best Chefs in America category. Merriss began her cooking career in Virginia in 2001, but returned to Indianapolis in 2005, where she served as line cook at chef Greg Hardesty’s Elements, which closed in 2010. From there, she went on to work at R Bistro, became an assistant instructor at the Chef’s Academy, was hired as sous chef of Hardesty’s Recess, and then opened Bluebeard in 2012.

Steven Oakley began working in Chicago-area restaurants at age 16. Since then, he’s worked across America for some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry. In 2002, Oakley landed in Indianapolis and quickly established himself as one of the area’s most talented chefs in opening Oakleys Bistro. This nomination is the fifth time Oakley has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation, having previously been nominated twice as a Rising Star Chef and twice as a Best Chefs in America semifinalist in 2008 and 2011.

According to a press release, “Semifinalists for the Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards are selected from 23,000 online entries, a process that’s overseen by a committee of industry professionals. After the first round of voting by judges, committee members, and previous winners, the semifinalists … are then narrowed down to a final list of nominees.”

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards “recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.”