MANATEE -- New Orleans is frequently listed among the top three or four U.S. cities for the quality and variety of its restaurants. It's a place that's tough to compete against.
So when Peter Arpke, head chef for the Beach Bistro, was named a semi-finalist for best chef in the South, he knew immediately that he was up against some of the most imposing competition in the industry.
New Orleans had more semi-finalists than any other state in the South and even in Florida, which offered an impressive array of competition, he was up against restaurants in Miami and Orlando.
Arpke was pleased to be listed among such a group of fabulous chefs, butwhen it came to making the list of finalists fo the James Beard Foundation's award, he couldn'tbeat the competitionfrom New Orleans and Miami.
The James Beard Foundation, which promotes the culinary arts in America and develops recognition of the chef's profession as an important element of culture and hospitality, named their finalists Monday. The James Beard award is the "Oscars" of the food world.
The finalists for best chef in the South are Jeff McInnis, of the Yardbird in Miami and from New Orleans: Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery; Tory McPhail, Commander's Palace; Alon Shaya, Domenica; and Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's.
But Arpke said last month that being named a semi-finalist was a huge achievement.
"I am humbled by the nomination," Arpke said. "It is the highest honor that an American chef can receive."
After working his way up from dishwasher, Arpke developed his talents and capabilities until he took over the head chef position at the Bistro. Today, Arpke is not only head chef for the Beach Bistro, he also serves as executive chef for the three Eat Here restaurants that owner Sean Murphy opened in Anna Maria, Sarasota and Siesta Key.