Bardea Food & Drink, the new Italian eatery in downtown Wilmington, and Matthew Kern, chef of Lewes’ highly rated Heirloom restaurant were not selected today as finalists for James Beard Foundation Awards..
The awards are considered the nation’s most prestigious culinary honors.
“We were already winners,” said Bardea co-owner Scott Stein. “This is not a sad day.”
The names of the Wilmington restaurant and Lewes chef were on the “long list” of Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists announced in advance of the 29th annual James Beard Awards.
Stein opened Bardea in October but has been in the restaurant business for 24 years, said you normally see a slowdown in January and February but “we’ve just been getting busier. We’ve probably seen a 25 percent increase in business” thanks to our nomination.
“Everyone’s been rallying around us, giving us high fives when they come in,” Stein added. “(Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki) came by yesterday for an impromptu gathering and basically said he was proud we were in the Big Dance and talked about the impact we’ve had on Wilmington.”
Kern says he is “grateful and humbled by the recognition. “I’m the new guy on the block and all of the finalists have been nominated a few times.”
Kern said Heirloom has been busier on weekends and that the media attention “has been huge. We don’t get the same attention (in Lewes) that these bigger cities do. But the idea of fine dining here is catching on and bringing the community together.”
The Beard Awards take place in Chicago on May 5.