Kevin Binkley Passed Over Again at the 2014 James Beard Awards

Categories: Restaurant News

Katie Johnson
Kevin Binkley still medal-less after this year's James Beard Foundation Awards.
It turns out the third time was not the charm for Arizona's only James Beard Award finalist this year. The annual culinary awards were held Monday night at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Much to the disappointment of many Arizonans, chef Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant in Cave Creek, Bink's Midtown, and Bink's Scottsdale did not win Best Chef: Southwest, an award for which he has been named a finalist the last three years.

See also: Kevin Binkley Stiffed (Again) at the 2013 James Beard Awards

This year, Arizona had six semifinalists -- three in the Best Chef: Southwest category, one for Best New Restaurant, one for Outstanding Restaurateur, and one for Outstanding Restaurant. Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe and Charleen Badman joined Binkley in the nominations for the regional award, while chef Gio Osso's Virtu got the nod for the highly competitive Best New Restaurant Award. Sam Fox won the Outstanding Restauranteur nomination and Chris Bianco's Pizzeria Bianco made the Outstanding Restaurant list. Restaurants must have been open for at least 10 years to quality for that award.

Binkley was the only nominee to move on to the final round. The chef, known for his molecular gastronomy, is widely accepted as the best chef in the city and state.

But instead of Binkley, Houston chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly won the Best Chef: Southwest award this year. Shepherd was named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2013.

Interestingly, chef Christopher Gross said that the Best New Chef list tends to be a good indicator of those who stand to win James Beard awards during the James Beard Award Winner panel at the Check, Please! Arizona Festival earlier this year.

Nine Arizona chefs have won the Best Chef: Southwest award in the past. Those chefs include: Nobuo Fukuda, Sea Saw, in 2007; Bradford Thompson, Mary Elaine's, in 2006; Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco, in 2003; Robert McGrath, Roaring Fork, in 2001; Janos Wilder, Janos, in 2000; RoxSand Scocos, RoxSand's, in 1999; Alex Stratta, Mary Elaine's, in 1998; Christopher Gross, Christopher's, in 1995; and Vincent Guerithault, Vincent on Camelback, in 1993.

As disappointing as it is to see Phoenix's own get passed over for a third year, it's worth pointing out that many chefs and restaurants go years without taking home a medal despite annual nominations. Binkley is by no means alone.

Winners are chosen by a committee of restaurant critics, magazine editors, food journalists, and cookbook writers across the country and many, including the very-vocal Anthony Bourdain, have criticized the awards for being an elitist popularity contest that overlooks minorities and women.

And, apparently, Kevin Binkley. Better luck next year, chef.

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Just because they charge an arm and a leg doesn't make it worthy of such an award.  I'll take Beau McMillan and the Sanctuary over Binkleys.


I looked at the underbelly menu......didnt look that special.....oooo kale and polenta and brisket.........I guess it could be ok though. I put Binkley's in my top 5 all time meals though......right up there with La Bernardin and Alinea.

Rickey Lynn Gans
Rickey Lynn Gans

Tonight was the James Beard awards. For those not in the know, it's kind of like the Oscars for chefs and the culinary trade. Once again, Arizona's entry, Kevin Binkley was passed over for a chef from Texas. I'm so tired of politics. Kevin has been nominated time after time, and has been turned down each time. Once upon a time, Phoenix was a culinary wasteland, but not anymore. We have some outstanding restaurants and outstanding chefs in our state. I have to wonder what it takes to get them the recognition that they all deserve. (stepping down from my soap box) Color me very disappointed!


quit your whining and go get some beard award winning fried dough at that fry bread place.

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