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Three Decatur restaurants make semifinalist list for James Beard Awards

Decatur Food

Three Decatur restaurants make semifinalist list for James Beard Awards

Interior shot of Chef Terry Koval’s The Deer And The Dove Restaurant in Downtown Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for the 2023 James Beard Awards, and three Decatur restaurants made the list.

According to the James Beard Foundation, “Nominees will be announced on Wednesday, March 29, and winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.”

The nominees from Decatur are:

Outstanding Bakery — Buena Gente Cuban Bakery, Decatur, GA

Photo provided by Buena Gente. Credit: Patrick White

“Established in 2016 in Atlanta, GA as a ‘rolling ventanita’ Buena Gente Cuban Bakery specializes in traditional and authentic Cuban delights. Buena Gente (hen-teh) means good people. It is a celebration of our culture and a mission to preserve the flavors we grew up on in Miami, Fla.,” the Buena Gente website says. “In August 2020 we realized our dream of opening a brick and mortar bakery. Follow your nose to our shop and you’ll find freshly baked pastelitos bursting with the tropical flavor of our signature guava preserves; handmade empanadas, croquetas, and Cuban sandwiches crafted with lechon marinated in our own mojo, then pressed on freshly baked Cuban bread. All of our desserts, like arroz con leche and tres leches cake, are lovingly made in small batches. Be sure to grab a Cuban coffee with hand spun espumita for a pick me up that pairs well with everything!”

Best Chef: Southeast — Terry Koval, The Deer and the Dove

Chef Terry Koval | Credit: Photo by Andy Lee

Koval has decades of experience in the restaurant industry.

“Chef Koval’s cuisine pays homage to the bounty of the region’s surrounding farms and local purveyors,” his biography says. “Named a 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Sustainable Chef by StarChefs, he is active in the Atlanta restaurant and nonprofit community and known for his dedication to and practice of the Slow Food movement.”

Before opening Deer and The Dove, Koval of was executive chef of The Wrecking Bar in Atlanta.

“Upon moving to Atlanta two decades ago, he worked his way up to Executive Sous Chef at Canoe in Vinings before joining the team at Concentrics Restaurants,” his biography says. “In 2010, he created the menu as opening chef at Farm Burger, a grassfed and locally sourced burger joint.”

Best Chef: Southeast — Sahar Siddiqi, Chai Pani

Chai Pani Indian Street Food on W. Ponce De Leon Avenue.

Siddiqi became the Chef de Cuisine at Chai Pani in 2021. Before serving in that role, Siddiqi was the restaurant’s assistant kitchen manager.

“Some of the best food of any country is its street food, and Chai Pani features chaat – crunchy, spicy, sweet, tangy, brightly flavored Indian street snacks,” the Chai Pani website says. “And because there’s nothing more comforting and delicious in any culture than a home cooked meal, Chai Pani also brings you thalis – traditional family meals highlighting India’s amazing culinary diversity.”

Several other Atlanta-area restaurants made the list of semifinalists as well. To see the full list of nominees, click here.

“Congratulations to all our 2023 James Beard Award Semifinalists! This is always an exhilarating moment as we kick off the Awards cycle and recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals and teams across the country,” James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach said in a press release.  “After a year of fundamental changes, we look forward to building on the progress made, celebrating those paving a better future for us all—through their talent and craft, service to others, and commitment to a better, more sustainable industry. We look forward to sharing more exciting details for the 2023 ceremonies in the coming days.”

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