Michael Solomanov, Stephen Starr, Philly Area Foodies Win Big at James Beard Awards

From the best chef in the country to the best restaurateur around, some of the Philadelphia area's culinary superstars were recognized Monday night with 2017 James Beard Awards.

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Michael Persico from "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking"
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Chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Old City Philadelphia took home the outstanding chef award.
Michael Persico from "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking"
Solomonov is from Israel but was raised in Pittsburgh and has established himself in Philadelphia. He was nominated for the top honor last year but didn't win.
Michael Persico from "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking"
"I’m incredibly lucky that my work is my life’s work," Solomonov said while accepting the honor. "It’s sort of a blessing and a curse as you can never really turn it off. I honor my family and my heritage. I promote commonality and community and peace while opposing alienation, and conflict and hatred."

"We as chefs can make statements about humanity, oftentimes, better than our elected offcials – and should, now more than ever. Hospitality is nourishment. It is spirituality and it is diplomacy. I’m honored to say that for the second time in my life, I accept the James Beard Award on Israeli Independence Day. So to the State of Israel, the country of my birth – happy birthday. This is for you."
Michael Persico from "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking"
Zahav features modern Israeli cuisine. Solomonov's current menu at Zahav highlights creatively paired simple foods. His brisket is served with apricots, and he offers roasted lamb with pomegranate and chickpeas.
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(left to right) Okan Yazici, general manager of Zahav; Steven Cook, Co-owner of Zahav and CookNSolo Restaurants and Camille Cogswell, pastry chef of Zahav, join Solomonov in celebrating the award.
Solomonov's other Philadelphia eateries (in partnership with Cook) include Federal Donuts, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Rooster Soup Co. and the recently opened falafel shop Goldie.
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Another Philadelphia foodie — Stephen Starr of Starr Restaurants — won the outstanding restaurateur award at a ceremony many consider the Oscars of the culinary world.
Frankford Hall is among more than one dozen Starr restaurants in Philly. This year's best new restaurant honor went to Le Coucou in New York, one of Starr's restaurants.
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Greg Vernick, of Vernick Food & Drink near Rittenhouse Square, took home Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
Dogfish Head Brewery
And, Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional went to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Sam Calagione, the Milton-based brewery’s founder.
Dogfish Head Brewery
“It’s a tremendous honor to receive this nod from our peers as we celebrate our 22nd year in business at Dogfish Head,” Calagione said in a news release. “I celebrate this award with my wife and business partner, Mariah, and our 200-plus co-workers who work hard to make our off-centered company tick. We’re also humbled and excited that James Beard recognized our innovative, culinary inspired bar program as it combines our love for our two favorite maritime regions into one delicious restaurant concept.”
Dogfish Head Brewery
"It feels great," Calagione told NBC10. "In 1995, Dogfish opened as the smallest brewery in the country with a mission to be the first brewery focused on brewing the majority of our beers with culinary ingredients and there wasn't a big appetite for that nationally. Now the high level of interest is heartwarming and it is especially heartwarming that the culinary community has shown strong support for Dogfish Head’s off-centered ales with this James Beard Award."
So raise a brew to that.
Chef Rick Bayless / Frontera Restaurants
Chicago's Rick Bayless' high-end Mexican eatery Topolobampo won the outstanding restaurant honor.
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