Beth Zozula of 40 North on the North Side, Wei Zhu of Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill, and Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski of Apteka in Bloomfield are semifinalists for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (the latter two as a pair). They are among 20 total nominees in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.
Zozula was previously recognized in 2018 for her work at the now-closed Ace Hotel. Wei Zhu has now earned his fifth nomination for Chengdu Gourmet. Lasky and Skowronski are first-time semifinalists.
Finalists will be announced on March 16 and winners will be announced at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on Mon., June 13, 2022, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. For a full list of semifinalists, click here.
40 W. North Ave., North Side. 40northpgh.com
Opened in summer 2021, this culinary addition to the City of Asylum and Alphabet City headquarters serves brunch, lunch, and dinner options. It also offers a distinct selection of starters that can easily become the main course of any outing. The current menu has some appealing choices inspired by cuisine from around the world, including Khachapuri, a type of Georgian cheese bread, chevre spiced with Za'atar, fried olives, and more. The selection reflects the mission of City of Asylum and Alphabet City to house and showcase writers and artists from around the globe, mainly those escaping persecution in their home countries.
5840 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill. chengdugourmetpittsburgh.com
Chengdu Gourmet has been intoxicating Pittsburghers with the intense flavors of authentic, Sichuan cuisine since 2014. Liberally heated with chilis and Sichuan peppercorns (which are really buds from an ash shrub), Sichuan cuisine is not bland and sweet, but complex, bold and often spicy. Beyond that, it is hard to come up with umbrella adjectives to describe the dazzling array of Sichuan specialties featured in Chengdu Gourmet's 20-page "Traditional Chinese" menu — everything from silken tofu and sea cucumber to spare ribs and spicy rabbit. Fortunately, since few of the dishes are familiar to American diners, the menu is plentifully illustrated with color photographs.
4606 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville. aptekapgh.com
Eastern European cuisine is not the most obvious starting point for an all-vegan menu. But Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski’s Apteka became instantly popular anyway, pioneering its own twist on Central and Eastern European dining. Today, the restaurant regularly has lines out the door as customers wait for their turn to order pierogies, borscht, or veggie schnitzel at the counter. As a Pittsburgh restaurant, of course, Apteka’s pierogies have to be a key draw. The restaurant has two varieties: one sauerkraut and mushroom, the other smoked cabbage and potato. Both are delicious.