Food and Drink

Alaska chefs, establishments and restaurateur named James Beard Award semifinalists

Three Alaska chefs, a Juneau distillery, a Homer cafe and an Anchorage restaurateur have been honored as James Beard Award semifinalists.

The James Beard Foundation, which annnounced its 2024 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists on Wednesday, is among the biggest names in the culinary and hospitality industry. The awards were established in 1990 to recognize outstanding talent and achievement in the food world, from culinary arts and hospitality to media.

Three Alaska chefs were named semifinalists in the category of Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific.

Beau Schooler, who operates Juneau restaurant In Bocca Al Lupo, was a nominee (finalist) in the category in 2023.

He’s joined this year by a pair of Anchorage-based chefs: Nathan Bentley at Altura Bistro and Michael Dodge at Whisky & Ramen.

[2023: 3 Alaska chefs, restaurateur nominated for James Beard awards]

Laile Fairbairn of Locally Grown Restaurants, which operates Anchorage eateries Snow City Cafe, South Restaurant + Coffeehouse, Crush Wine Bistro & Cellar and Spenard Roadhouse, was named a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category. Fairbairn was also a semifinalist in 2023.


La Baleine Café, on the Homer Spit, was named a semifinalist in the Outstanding Hospitality category.

Juneau’s Amalga Distillery, which specializes in gin and whiskey, is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bar category.

The 2024 Restaurant and Chef awards include 22 total categories, also covering bakeries and wine and beverage service.

The James Beard Award nominees will be announced April 3, with the winners set to be revealed June 10, according to the foundation.