The time has come for James Beard Award semifinalists and you might just recognize some of the nominees.

The James Beard Awards began in 1991, and since then have been recognizing the most outstanding chefs and culinary professionals in the United States each year. It is a huge honor just to receive a nomination for these awards, and this year four New Jersey restaurants were nominated.

The first nominee was Steve and Cookie's located in Margate City for outstanding hospitality. Steve and Cookies has been a personal favorite of mine ever since I can remember, and their blueberry pie is the best one on the Jersey Shore.

Steve & Cookie's / Google Maps
Steve & Cookie's / Google Maps
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Four chefs in New Jersey were also nominated for best chef, giving attention to some of the Jersey communities that aren’t usually in the news too often.

Zeppoli / Google Maps
Zeppoli / Google Maps
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The first chef nominated is Joey Baldino from Zeppoli in Collingswood. Zeppoli is an intimate Italian restaurant with just 35 seats. The menu features classic Italian dishes and is a favorite of Collingswood locals.

Canal House Station / Google Maps
Canal House Station / Google Maps
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The next nominees were Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer from Canal House Station in Milford. This cozy-looking restaurant actually has quite the sophisticated menu and also offers prix fixe tastings. They also have a menu specific to Sundays, which sets them apart from many of the other restaurants in the area.

China Chalet / Google Maps
China Chalet / Google Maps
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The final nomination was Wei Lu, from China Chalet in Florham Park. China Chalet has been recognized in several prestigious newspapers and magazines and is known as some of the best Chinese food in the Florham Park area. The menu is seemingly endless, and is full of classic Chinese dishes. Both dining and takeout are available at China Chalet, allowing all of New Jersey to try this delicious cuisine.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.

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