5 Vermont chefs, restaurants and drinking establishments among James Beard Awards semifinalists

Haymaker Bun Company of Middlebury is among the first-ever nominees for outstanding bakery, a new category. Photo via Facebook

Five Vermont eating and drinking establishments are among the semifinalists for the prestigious James Beard Awards.

Mojo Hancy-Davis of the Burlington restaurant May Day and Alganesh Michael of the South Burlington caterer A Taste of Abyssinia have been nominated as best chefs in the Northeast.

Hancy-Davis offers an eclectic menu ranging from yakisoba, Japanese grilled noodles, to hanger steak. 

Michael, a former nurse originally from Eritrea, has been doing pop-up dinners at various restaurants for the last six years, offering Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. She caters parties, offers cooking classes and serves a weekly takeout dinner at The Mill Market and Deli in South Burlington. 

Amanda Wildermuth of the Burlington restaurant Honey Road has been nominated in the category of outstanding pastry chef or baker. Her creations include walnut baklava and mini-chocolate sesame mousse. 

Amanda Wildermuth of the Burlington restaurant Honey Road has been nominated in the category of outstanding pastry chef or baker. Courtesy photo

Haymaker Bun Company of Middlebury has been nominated for outstanding bakery.

“This is such an honor,” said owner Caroline Corrente. “I religiously follow James Beard Awards. I’m in complete shock.”

Corrente said she learned the news from a friend who sent her a text. 

This is the first year that the James Beard Awards have had a separate category for bakeries.  

Corrente said she started Haymaker from her home kitchen in 2017. A trained pastry chef, she was home on maternity leave, trying to figure out her next professional step. She came up with the idea of doing specialty brioche buns — sweet ones, savory ones, chocolate ones. Her specialty is her cinnamon bun. 

In 2018, she and her husband had the opportunity to move into a space in downtown Middlebury with a deck that overlooks Otter Creek. Their cafe serves breakfast and lunch. 

“‘I’m super proud of my team,” Corrente said. “It’s been a really hard past few years for everyone in my industry, between the pandemic and labor shortages and rising food costs. We work really hard and we wake up really early.”

Burlington’s Foam Brewers has been nominated for the outstanding wine and other beverages program. Its beers on tap range from Pavement India Pale Ale to Pagan Science American Wild Ale, aged on peaches.

“It’s a pretty nice surprise,” said Bob Grim, Foam’s co-founder and head brewer. Grim said he found out when he received an email from another Vermont brewer.

Grim said he sees the nomination as recognition for Foam’s work to support Vermont agriculture, a part of the brewery’s ethos since its start. 

“When we opened, we incorporated that into who we were,” said Grim. “We wanted to work with the people in our community."

Last year, Nisachon “Rung” Morgan, owner of the Thai restaurant Saap in Randolph, took home the award for best chef in the Northeast.

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Fred Thys

About Fred

Fred Thys covers business and the economy for VTDigger. He is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, and graduated from Williams College with a degree in political science. He is the recipient of the Radio, Television, and Digital News Association's Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting and for Enterprise Reporting. Fred has worked at The Journal of Commerce, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, NBC News, and WBUR, and has written for Le Matin, The Dallas Morning News, and The American Homefront Project.


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