These Mississippi chefs, restaurants named James Beard semifinalists — the best in food and dining in the country

Published 8:45 am Sunday, January 29, 2023

When it comes to food, three Mississippi restaurants are not just wowing diners in the Magnolia State they are also getting noticed by some of the best chefs and food critics in the country,

One Mississippi restaurants and three chefs have been chosen as semifinalists in the annual James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards,

The list of semifinalists, which was released last week, honors the best of food and dining in the country.

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Sambou’s African Kitchen in Jackson was listed as a semifinalist in the category of Best New Restaurant.

In 2022, one of the oxtails from the restaurant received notice when they were named to The New York Times’ list of unforgettable dishes.

The oxtails from Sambou’s African Kitchen on County Line Road in Jackson feature a gravy that “pulses with ginger” and so good that “you’ll want to spoon it” and the meat over coconut rice, the newspaper said.

Sambou’s was founded by Joseph Sambou earlier this year. The full-service restaurant offers unique African dishes. According to the restaurant’s website, Sambou opened his business after discovering how woefully underrepresented African dishes are in Mississippi and the surrounding region. Sambou’s menu is mostly West African. Many of the dishes feature beans, fresh seafood, dried fish, and meats that all blend layers of flavorful taste when combined with garden-fresh ingredients.

Along with Sambou’s African Kitchen, three other chefs received semifinalist honors in the category of Best Chef in the South.

Hunter Evans from the restaurant Elvie’s in Jackson received a mention along with Alex Perry and Kumi Omori from the restaurant Vestige in Ocean Springs.

In the historic Jackson neighborhood of Belhaven, Elvie’s is an all-day cafe, that serves seasonal fare highlighting Southern farmers. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Because it is a small restaurant and very popular, reservations are highly recommended.

Vestige is a contemporary American restaurant in beautiful and historic downtown Ocean Springs, locally owned by Ocean Springs native Chef Alex Perry and his wife Kumi Omori. The restaurant’s food is often inspired by the flavors and techniques of Japan, where Omori grew up. The restaurant is open for dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are highly recommended.

On March 29, the list of semifinalists will be narrowed down, and the nominees in 23 categories will be announced. Then on June 5, an award winner will be announced in each category at a ceremony at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization “whose mission is to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.”

The James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards were established in 1990 and first awarded in 1991