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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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Chef Greg Baker Picks Up A James Beard Semifinal Nod [More Accolades For The Refinery]

Posted Feb 19, 2013 by Jeff Houck

Updated Feb 19, 2013 at 06:50 PM

Greg Baker of The Refinery

Tuesday was a normal day for Greg Baker at The Refinery in Seminole Heights. He was doing prep for service (pictured above) and meeting with a job applicant.

Oh, and picking up a semifinal nomination for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award.

Baker is among 20 semifinalists in the Best Chef: South category. (Beard separates into 10 regions, in addition to many other restaurant and chef categories).

Other central Florida semifinalists include Peter Arpke of Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach, Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon in Orlando, Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, Brandon McGlamery of Luma on Park in Winter Park, and James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park,

Baker said he wasn’t aware that announcements were coming out today until fellow chef Chad Johnson at SideBern’s in Tampa texted his congratulations for being a semifinalist.

Gre Baker Tweet

This is the third nomination for The Refinery and the second for Baker in as many years. (The Refinery was a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in the U.S. in 2011.) In 2012, Beard also recognized Johnson at SideBern’s and Richard Gonzmart of The Columbia Restaurant in chef and restaurateur categories, respectfully.

It is a busy two weeks for Baker and the Refinery staff. On Sunday, he will participate in a sold-out Friends of the James Beard Foundation dinner at SideBern’s, cooking alongside Marty Blitz of Mise en Place, B.T. Nguyen of Restaurant BT, Zack Gross of Z Grille, Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill, Habteab Hamde of Bern’s Steak House and Bern’s Pastry Chef Kim Yelvington. Baker is planning to make Sturgeon Confit with Anson Mills grits, clam & Benton’s smoked ham broth, roasted watermelon radish, red mizuna, whey and sorrel.

The following weekend, he cooks pork butt for 2,000 at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival in South Carolina. And The Refinery that same weekend will serve thousands of plates at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in Tampa.

The semifinal nomination is among a string of national notices for The Refinery, which received great reviews from The Washington Post and The New York Times during last year’s Republican National Convention and a featured spot in Bon Appetit magazine.

Visiting Baker on Tuesday, I found him preparing components for dinner service.

“This is the glamorous side,” he joked.

What happens now? I’ll let the Foundation take it from here:

The list of semifinalist nominees is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country. This panel, which comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners, votes on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees in each category. The same judges then vote on these five nominees to select the winners. The governing Awards Committee, board of trustees, and staff of the James Beard Foundation do not vote, and the results are kept confidential until the presentation of winners in May.

Here is the rest of the category:

Bistro at The Concession James Beard House Dinner


Peter Arpke, Beach Bistro, Holmes Beach, FL (pictured above)

Greg Baker, The Refinery, Tampa, FL

Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS

Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon, Orlando, FL

Clay Conley, Buccan, Palm Beach, FL

Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans

Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR

Justin Girouard, The French Press, Lafayette, LA

Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista, FL

James Lewis, Bettola, Birmingham, AL

Rob McDaniel, SpringHouse, Alexander City, AL

Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park, Winter Park, FL

Jeff McInnis, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami Beach, FL

Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans

Jose Mendin, Pubbelly, Miami Beach, FL

James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park, FL

Hari Pulapaka, Cress, DeLand, FL

Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans

Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans

Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans

Florida nominees in other categories include:


Khong River House, Miami Beach


The Broken Shaker, Miami Beach



Hedy Goldsmith, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami



Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista



Giorgio Rapicavoli, Eating House, Coral Gables

Click here for the full list of chef and restaurant semifinalists.

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