JWU ZEST™ Awards

A closer look at the 2017 winners.

The ZEST™ Awards was created in 2012 to showcase and honor leaders in culinary arts within the South Florida region. From newcomers to established chefs, the ZEST™ Awards honors all its nominees in each categories for their respective accomplishments. Each year, the event attracts chefs, culinary entrepreneurs and community leaders from across the region, including JWU alums and industry professionals, to celebrate and honor South Florida’s rich culinary heritage.

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In April, Johnson & Wales University’s North Miami Campus hosted the seventh annual ZEST™ Awards, which showcased South Florida’s culinary leaders in 10 award categories.

View photos from the 2018 JWU ZEST™ Awards.

2018 Nominees:

Best Restaurant: This award is given to a local restaurantt that stood out above the rest both for its delicious food and talented culinary team.

  • Cecconi's
  • Fi'lia
  • KYU
  • La Mar
  • Quinto La Huella
  • Sugarcane
  • Toscana Divino
  • Zuma WINNER

Best Boutique Restaurant: This award is given to an independent, chef-owned or operated restaurant that stood out above the rest both for its delicious food and talented culinary team.

  • Drunken Dragon
  • Eating House
  • Macchialina WINNER
  • NIU Kitchen
  • Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante
  • Via Verde

Best New Restaurant: This award is given to a new restaurant that has quickly garnered a loyal foodie following.

  • Bazaar Mar
  • Ghee Indian Kitchen
  • Habitat
  • Lightkeepers at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
  • No Name Chinese
  • Stiltsville Fish Bar
  • Stubborn Seed WINNER
  • Upland

Best Bar/Lounge: This award is given to a local bar/lounge that has shown excellence in finding the best wines or creating the best cocktails.

  • Bodega Taqueria y Tequila
  • Broken Shaker
  • The Drawing Room at the Shelbourne South Beach
  • Employees Only
  • Sugar
  • Sweet Liberty WINNER
  • Traymore Gin Bar

Best Wine Program: This award is given to a local restaurant that has demonstrated discriminating taste in offering and exceptional wine program for its guest.

  • BarMeli69
  • Bourbon Steak
  • Casa Tua
  • Macchialina
  • Michael's Genuine
  • Stripsteak
  • Timo
  • Upland WINNER

Baking and Pastry Chef of the Year: This award is given to a local baking & pastry chef who has shown exemplary creativity and excelle through innovative menu items.

  • Laszlo Bollok, Four Seasons Hotel Miami
  • Soraya Kilgore, Alter
  • John Martinez, Ritz-Carlton South Beach
  • Jason Morale, SLS South Beach WINNER
  • Kimberly Pearson, The Setai
  • Levi Richard, Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
  • Dallas Wynne, Stubborn Seed

Chef of the Year: This award honors a local chef who has created innovative menu items and restaurant concepts. 

  • Eileen Andrade
  • Jeremy Ford
  • Jeff McInnis & Janine Booth
  • Jose Mendin
  • Stanley Miller
  • Nivan Patel
  • Sergio Sigala WINNER
  • Xavier Torres

Changing the Way the World Eats: This award is presented to a local restaurant or community member who is committed to promoting health conscious initiatives and strengthening the community through culinary efforts in South Florida

  • Plant Miami WINNER

Community Leader: This award is presented to a community member who has strengthened the community through culinary efforts in the South Florida region.

  • The Education Fund WINNER

Courage: This special award was established in 2018 to recognize an individual for his or her fearless commitment to the culinary industry.

  • Ralph Pagano WINNER

Reader’s Choice Best Food & Drink Influencer: This award is given to a local food blogger that has shown excellence in covering South Florida’s culinary landscape. 

  • Adventures of the Foodaholic
  • Burger Beast
  • ChatChow
  • Food for Thought
  • The Food-E
  • Fork Yeah Miami
  • Hungry Black Man
  • MIA Bites
  • Miami Chef WINNER
  • Miami Food Porn
  • Miami Food Pug
  • Mitch and Mel Take Miami

Reader’s Choice Best Food Reporting: This award is given to a local media outlet that has shown excellence in covering South Florida’s culinary landscape. 

  • Check, Please! South Florida
  • Dining Out Miami
  • Eat This, Drink That, Go with Jimmy Cefalo & Brenda Bassett
  • Eater Miami
  • Edible South Florida
  • Indulge
  • Miami.com
  • The Miami Herald
  • MIAMI Modern Luxury Magazine
  • The Naughty Fork
  • Ocean Drive Magazine
  • SoFlo Taste WINNER

2017 Winners:

  • Best Restaurant: Palme d’Or
  • Best Boutique Restaurant: Alter
  • Best Bar/Lounge: Repour Bar
  • Best Wine Program: Coya
  • Baking & Pastry Chef of the Year: Simon Bregardis, Executive Pastry Chef at Fontainebleau Miami
  • Chef of the Year: Brad Kilgore '06, ALTER and Brava by Brad Kilgore
  • Best New Restaurant: Glass & Vine
  • Reader’s Choice: Best Food & Drink Influencer: The Hungry Post
  • Reader’s Choice: Best Food Reporting (Traditional Media): Miami New Times
  • Community Leader: Alison Burgos and Michelle Gaber, co-founders of the SEED Food & Wine Festival

2016 Winners:

  • Best Restaurant: Sugarcane
  • Best Boutique Restaurant: R House Wynwood
  • Best New Restaurant: Alter
  • Best Bar/Lounge: Matador
  • Best Wine Program: Timo
  • Baking and Pastry Innovator: Antonio Bachour, St. Regis
  • Culinary Innovator: Timon Balloo
  • Eater’s Choice: The Lunchbox, Miami's first zero waste restaurant, opens 
  • Community Leader: Rev. Ronald Brummitt, president of Miami Rescue Mission

2015 winners:

  • Best Restaurant: Palme d’Or at the Biltmore Hotel
  • Best Boutique Restaurant: Drunken Dragon
  • Best Bar/Lounge: Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami 
  • Best Wine Program: Zuma
  • Baking and Pastry Innovator: Zak Stern, Zak the Baker
  • Culinary Innovator: Jose Mendin, Pubbelly Group
  • Reader’s Choice Best Food Blogger: Miami Food Pug
  • Reader’s Choice Best Food Reporting: Short Order (Miami New Times)
  • Community Leader - Michelle Bernstein, chef/owner of Crumb on Parchment and chef of Seagrape at the Thompson Miami Beach.

2014 Winner:

  • Best Restaurant: Bazaar by Jose Andres
  • Best Bar/Lounge: The Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale Hotel 
  • Baking and Pastry Innovator: Hedy Goldsmith, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
  • Culinary Innovator: Timon Balloo, Sugarcane
  • Newcomer of the Year: Bocce Bar
  • Reader’s Choice Best Food Blogger: Fat Girl Hedonist
  • Community Leader: Chef Richard Ingraham, founder of Chef RLI

2013 Winners:

  • Culinary Innovator: Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin & Sergio Navarro, Pubbelly Group
  • Newcomer of the Year: Piyarat Potha Arreeratn (Chef Bee), Khong River House
  • Baking & Pastry Innovator: Antonio Bachour, St. Regis Bal Harbor
  • Community Leader: Allen Susser, Chef Allen's Consulting (Share Our Strength)
  • MIAMI Magazine Readers’ Choice Award Best Restaurant 2013: Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar
  • MIAMI Magazine Readers’ Choice Award Best Bar/Lounge 2013: Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami

2012 Winners:

  • Culinary Innovator: Bjoern Weissgerber, Zuma
  • Best Restaurant: Sra. Martinez
  • Newcomer of the Year: Juliana Gonzalez, Barceloneta
  • Baking & Pastry Innovator: Michelle Negron, Timo
  • Top Beverage Professional: Isaac Grillo, Haven
  • Community Leader: Penny Parham, administrative director for Department of Food & Nutrition at Miami-Dade Public Schools.