When Jose De Brito was a teenager, he applied to four different culinary schools in the French district where he lived. All of them rejected him. De Brito’s school counselor advised that cooking was not for him.
Thank goodness De Brito didn’t listen.
Today, three decades after the culinary school rejections, the James Beard Foundation named De Brito a 2016 semifinalist for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic. As one of twenty semifinalists, De Brito joins top chefs at elite restaurants in Washington D.C, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic. Congratulations to De Brito on another great honor for him, The Alley Light, and Charlottesville dining.
Having enjoyed De Brito’s food countless times, I respectfully disagree with his school counselor.
Charlottesville residents have long known of the wonderful food we enjoy here. But, in recent years, the rest of the nation is increasingly taking notice of a city whose food quality outsizes its population. The latest example is last week’s announcement of semi-finalists for the 2015 James Beard Awards, where Charlottesville cleaned house. In Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic, the twenty semifinalists include not one but two Charlottesville chefs. Angelo Vangelopoulos (pictured), of The Ivy Inn, earned his second consecutive nod, while Peter Chang received his first. The region spans Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia. Meanwhile, Diane Flynt, of Foggy Ridge Cider, is one of twenty semifinalists for the nation’s most Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional.
And, for the first time ever, a Charlottesville restaurant made the list of semifinalists for best new restaurant in the country. The Alley Light joined a list studded with big city restaurants from big names like Jose Andres and Curtis Stone. If you look at the approximate populations of the metropolitan areas of the best new restaurant semi-finalists, one stands out:
Someone once quipped that the Academy Awards are the James Beard Awards of the movies. That’s how significant some consider the annual food awards of the James Beard Foundation. Today, the Foundation announced the semifinalists for the 2015 awards. Charlottesville’s own The Alley Light is among the twenty-five semifinalists for Best New Restaurant in the country. Congratulations to The Alley Light. In a category often dominated by big names in big cities, it is a great honor for the restaurant, and for Charlottesville dining.