We’ve been known to select dining establishments based on their chairs and typefaces, so when the James Beard Foundation announces its annual slate of award nominees, we head straight for the design and graphics categories. Unfortunately, the latter category–won in recent years by the likes of Korn Design, Love and War, and Pandiscio Co.–seems to have lost its seat at the groaning JBF awards table. At the same time, the design category has been expanded to recognize the best restaurant design or renovation in North America (since January 1, 2010) in two categories: establishments of 75 seats or less and those with 76 seats or more.
A historic plantation in Charleston, South Carolina was the setting for the recent announcement of the 2013 award contenders, selected by committees of industry pros in categories spanning chefs, restaurants, food writing, and cookbooks. Duking it out for the chocolate-filled JBF medallion for best restaurant design in the 76-seats-and-over category are David Rockwell (Rockwell Group) and Diego Gronda (Rockwell Group Europe) for José Andrés‘s Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Alejandro Barrios Carrero for the breathtaking Juvia in Miami Beach, and Chung and Chuong Q. B. Nguyen of MC2 Architects for Triniti in Houston. The cozier (75 seats and under) contenders are Commune for Farmshop in Santa Monica, Taavo Somer for the quirktastic Isa in Brooklyn’s pro-rustic enclave of Williamsburg, and down in our nation’s capital, Juli Capella and Miquel Garcia of Barcelona-based Capella Garcia Arquitectura for minibar by José Andrés, who evidently has a sharp eye for design. The winners of these and the awards that involved actual food will be announced on May 6 at a Lincoln Center ceremony. Wear your fanciest clogs!