http://jacksonfreepress.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/photos/2014/07/15/Jesse_Houston_Saltine_Oyster_Bar_TB-3_t670.jpg" width="200" align="right" />Chef Jesse Houston of Saltine restaurant in Fondren has been named a semifinalist by the James Beard Foundation for “Best Chef: South."
From the http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/awards-watch-restaurant-and-chef-award-semifinalists-announced-next-week-nominees-will-be">James Beard Award website: "Where do the semifinalists come from? The process began in October with an open call online; anyone could submit up to two entries per category. After receiving about 20,000 submissions, our Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee, composed of critics, writers, and editors, went to work and produced the list of semifinalists, culled from the open call and committee suggestions, for each award.
"This list will move on to a voting body of former Beard Award winners; Restaurant and Chef Award Committee members; and other regional panelists. After these judges cast their votes, the five semifinalists with the highest number of votes in each category advance to become the nominees. They will be announced, along with the nominees for Book, Broadcast Media, Journalism, and Restaurant Design awards, on Tuesday, March 15."
Houston is in great company in the Best Chef: South category including a number of New Orleans-based finalists and one chef from Oxford, Miss.
Best Chef: South
Greg Baker, The Refinery, Tampa, FL
David Bancroft, Acre, Auburn, AL
Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS
Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon, Orlando, FL
Bill Briand, Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina, Orange Beach, AL
Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans
Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR
Michael Gulotta, MoPho, New Orleans
Jesse Houston, Saltine, Jackson, MS
Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Deme Lomas, Niu Kitchen, Miami
Matthew McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, AR
Rob McDaniel, SpringHouse, Alexander City, AL
José Mendín, Pubbelly, Miami Beach, FL
James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park, FL
Michael Pirolo, Macchialina, Miami Beach, FL
Giorgio Rapicavoli, Eating House, Coral Gables, FL
Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans
Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans
Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans
[Update: I tweaked the headline; technically the current level is "semifinalist" and moves on to "nominee" if you're in the top five. - TS]