Evans, Sambou's Make Short List for 2023 Beard Awards

January 25, 2023

Hunter Evans chef
Credit: Ben Hon

The James Beard Foundation® has announced its 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards Semifinalists in advance of the James Beard Awards® presented by Capital One with two honorees hailing from the City With Soul.

Elvie's owner and chef, Hunter Evans, is a semifinalist for Best Chef South and Sambou's African Kitchen is a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.

The full list of 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards Semifinalists can be found on the James Beard Foundation website. Nominees will be announced on Wednesday, March 29, and winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The James Beard Awards, considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognize exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Evans discovered a love for cooking while working in the kitchens helmed by acclaimed chef John Currence while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Hunter continued his training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. While enrolled at the CIA, Hunter staged at some of NYC’s top restaurants, including Le Bernardin, Cafe Boulud and Daniel. After graduation, Hunter went on to work for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality before returning to Mississippi to fulfill his dream of opening a restaurant in his hometown. Hunter has formed strong relationships with Mississippi farmers and purveyors and showcases regional ingredients at his new restaurant, Elvie’s, which opened in 2020. Inspired by his travels through Europe and memories with his grandmother in New Orleans, Elvie’s offers a modern take on classic French cuisine through the lens of Southern culinary traditions and ingredients. The restaurant was named to the New York Times' Best Restaurant list in 2022.

Sambou's African Kitchen, opened in March 2022, is family-run North Jackson eatery that utilizes Gambian culinary methods to deliver a scrumptious menu that excites the senses and delights the palate. In December 2022, the restaurant operated by Sally Demba and Jospeh and Bibian Sambou, was named to the New York Times' "25 Restaurant Dishes We Couldn't Stop Thinking About This Year" for their oxtails. "The gravy in the long-simmered oxtails pulses with ginger; you'll want to spoon it, along with the spoon-tender meat, over your side of coconut rice," the writer proclaimed.

The James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards—established in 1990 and first awarded in 1991—are one of five separate recognition programs of the Awards. This Awards program celebrates excellence across a range of experiences, from fine-dining establishments to casual gems, and emerging talents to established masters. The 2023 Restaurant and Chef Semifinalists are recognized across 23 categories, including the new Award for Outstanding Bakery.