Foodie Flash: Which 3 Hawai‘i Chefs Are James Beard Semifinalists?

Congratulations to the three local chefs named semifinalists for what’s known as the Oscars of the food universe.
Michelle Karr-Ueoka, Ed Kenney and Andrew Le are semi-finalists for the 2015 James Beard Awards.
Photos: Linny Morris, Town Restaurant, Olivier Koning


News flashed this week that three Hawai‘i chefs have been named semifinalists for the 2015 James Beard Awards—the Oscars of the food universe—prompting foodies to quickly compare palates with the experts.  


Universally acknowledged as the top U.S. food and restaurant awards, the James Beards honor the critic, author and teacher whose opinions, appetites, joie de vivre and temper are equally legendary. The top chefs were selected from 34,000 online entries.


Up for the Outstanding Pastry Chef award, Michelle Karr-Ueoka of MW Restaurant is the only semifinalist in a national category from Hawai‘i. The former pastry chef at Alan Wong’s founded MW with her husband, former Alan Wong’s chef de cuisine Wade Ueoka. MW was a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant last year and Karr-Ueoka for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Winner of a 2015 Hale ‘Aina Silver Award for Best Dessert Restaurant from HONOLULU Magazine, she and other semifinalists will learn March 24 who the final nominees are.


Nose-to-tail and local food advocate Ed Kenney was nominated for the Best Chef: West category, as he was for 2013 and 2014. Kenney opened Town restaurant in 2005 and hosts the food and travel show Family Ingredients, soon to be seen on PBS.  Town was a HONOLULU Magazine Hale ‘Aina finalist in the Best Gourmet Comfort Food and Best Seafood categories in 2015.


The Pig and the Lady chef Andrew Le continues his meteoric rise from pop-up roots with Beard semifinalist selection in the Best Chef: West category. He was a semifinalist as a Rising Star Chef last year. Le is a HONOLULU Magazine Gold Award winner in 2015 for both Best New Restaurant and Best Vietnamese Restaurant. Find out how the restaurant started and how the Le family went from selling toys to food.


Namesake cookbook author/teacher Beard died in 1985, but the James Beard Foundation was founded the next year and has raised the profile and standards of dining since, establishing the awards in 1990. Click here to see the complete list of semifinalists. Take a look at HONOLULU Magazine Hale ‘Aina awards list.


The gala awards ceremony is May 4 in Chicago.