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'A ray of much needed sunlight' | St. Louis chef honored as a James Beard Award finalist

Congratulations to Michael Gallina!
Credit: Dilip Vishwanat | SLBJ
Michael Gallina is executive chef of Vicia.

ST. LOUIS — One of St. Louis’ top chefs is now up for one of the culinary world’s biggest awards. The James Beard Foundation named Michael Gallina a finalist in the “Best Chef: Midwest” category of its highly acclaimed awards Monday afternoon.

Gallina is the chef behind Vicia, which is located in St. Louis’ Cortex innovation district. He and his wife Tara Gallina also are the creative minds behind Winslow’s Table, which they reopened in University City last fall.

"It feels strange to celebrate in a time like this," Michael Gallina wrote in an Instagram post Monday evening. "Our worlds are upside down, everything we have worked so hard for throughout our careers as chefs feels like it's holding on by a thread. But for a moment, to be recognized by the @beardfoundation and to represent my city for something positive feels like a ray of much needed sunlight."

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The James Beard Foundation announced all of the award finalists Monday afternoon on what was originally supposed to be the day the winners were announced. The announcement of the finalists — and subsequently, the winners — was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“One thing we know for certain: the innovation, creativity, and mettle of the restaurant community will be key to its recovery. What’s more, so many more people now understand the true economic, social, and cultural value of their local restaurants. They literally make our neighborhoods, our local economies, our food culture come alive. And for that, we celebrate all of them,” the foundation wrote on its website Monday while announcing the finalists.

"St. Louis has fought hard through this crisis and banded together to support our community during its time of need, and I know our restaurant community will continue to fight hard to pull through and keep our passion for amazing food and hospitality at its core," Gallina wrote on Instagram. "I am so proud to be doing what I love and will work hard to make a positive impact no matter what comes next."

The nomination is the latest accolade for the well-known St. Louis chef and restaurant. Vicia was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2018. That same year Gallina also was named Best New Chef in America by Food & Wine.

The James Beard Award chef and restaurant winners will be announced on Friday, September 25 in Chicago.

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Below is the full list of finalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category.

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)

Steven Brown
Tilia
Minneapolis

Michael Corvino
Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room
Kansas City, MO

Michael Gallina
Vicia
St. Louis

Jamie Malone
Grand Café
Minneapolis

Christina Nguyen
Hai Hai
Minneapolis

Check out the full list of James Beard Award finalists here.

Gallina had been in good company with five other chefs and two restaurants that were named James Beard Award semifinalists. Lona Luo of Lona’s Lil Eats, Jesse Mendica of Olive + Oak and Loryn Nalic of Balkan Treat Box also were in the “Best Chef: Midwest” category.

Mai Lee was up for “Outstanding Restaurant (nationwide). Nathaniel Reid was up for “Outstanding Baker”, iNDO was up for “Best New Restaurant” and the restaurant’s chef, Nick Bognar, was up for “Rising Star Chef of the Year”.

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