April 16, 2024

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2 Sacramento restaurants finalists in James Beard awards

Two midtown Sacramento restaurants are up for James Beard Awards, arguably the most prestigious awards in United States food.

Paragary’s, the 39-year-old French-Italian bistro at 1401 28th St., joined 19 other businesses nationwide on the semifinalist list under the Outstanding Restaurant category on Wednesday.

Localis chef/owner Chris Barnum-Dann, meanwhile, is a semifinalist for Best Chef: California.

Paragary’s was the flagship restaurant of Randy Paragary, arguably Sacramento’s most influential restaurateur, who died in August. His widow Stacy Paragary and longtime chef Kurt Spataro, partners in Paragary Restaurant Group alongside Randy, have continued overseeing seven restaurants after his death.

“I think he’d be really pleased. I think he’d be very pleased,” Spataro said. “I think he would have taken a lot of pride in it and have loved the idea of recognition for his employees and staff and management.”

Often described as “the Oscars of food,” the annual James Beard Awards recognize the best cooking, and food writing across the United States, as determined by a secret panel of expert judges. Winners will be announced June 13 in a ceremony in Chicago.

Longtime downtown Sacramento Chinese restaurant Frank Fat’s won the James Beard Award for “America’s Classics” in 2013, a nod to its influence on the city core and Chinese-American cooking. But no Sacramento restaurant or chef has ever won a James Beard Award for active brilliance.

Barnum-Dann was hanging sheetrock at home when he learned he was a semifinalist from a reporter Wednesday morning. He stopped work and began yelling throughout the house.

“I’m pretty amazed. This is a huge, huge deal,” Barnum-Dann said. “I’m kind of a little dumbfounded, to be totally honest with you. It hasn’t even settled in yet. To be on that list for one of the greatest food states in the United States is extremely humbly and extremely exciting … I just can’t believe it. It’s incredible. I’m super excited.”

Barnum-Dann bought Localis, where his wife Jessica now also works as the general manager, in 2016. The Auburn native had previously been the executive chef at Cafe Zorro in Loomis, Cibo 7 in Roseville (both now closed) and Winchester Country Club in Meadow Vista.

If Barnum-Dann wins, it would be the latest and largest accolade to his growing resume. He won the first season of the Food Network cooking show “The Globe” last year, and Localis received Michelin Plates in the 2019 and 2021 California Guides.

Localis reopened after an interior remodel six months ago, serving only seven or 12-course tasting menu dinners at 2031 S St. The dishes change frequently with the seasons and take inspiration from across the world, an approach that likely served Barnum-Dann well on “The Globe.”

Click here to see a full list of James Beard Award semifinalists.

This story was originally published February 23, 2022 12:46 PM.

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Benjy Egel covers local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee as well as general breaking news and investigative projects. A Sacramento native, he previously covered business for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.