Commander’s McPhail named Beard winner

Commander’s Palace Executive Chef Tory McPhail bested three other New Orleans chefs and a Miami Beach, Fla., chef to win the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: South award at the foundation’s May 6 awards ceremony in New York City.

The Beard Awards are often called the highest honor for those working in the food and beverage industry in North America.

Other New Orleans chefs nominated for the Best Chef: South award were Justin Devillier, of La Petite Grocery; Alon Shaya, of Domenica; and Sue Zemanick, of Gautreau’s. Jeff McInnis, of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami Beach, was the fifth finalist.

Also honored was Emeril Lagrasse, who received the 2013 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award for his charitable foundation’s support of youth and educational programs, such as Café Reconcile in New Orleans.

There was a tie for the national Outstanding Chef award: David Chang, of Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City, and Paul Kahan, of Blackbird in Chicago.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation Awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. All award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the Beard Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes

Firehouse Subs in BR

The casual restaurant chain Firehouse Subs recently opened its first Baton Rouge location at 5140 Corporate Blvd.

The eatery operates seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is the first Firehouse Subs for franchise owner Patrick Lee, a news release says.

The restaurant chain is known for steaming its meats and cheeses, which are then served in sub rolls with fresh produce. Each sandwich is made with a half-pound of meat, the release says.

Each restaurant in the 615-unit chain also features a hand-painted mural, and the Baton Rouge location’s mural illustrates LSU’s Tiger Stadium and a firetruck from the Fire Emergency Training Institute.

Firehouse Subs was founded in Jacksonville, Fla., by brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, both former firefighters.

Fresh Food Hub

L+M Development Partners and Broad Community Connections recently broke ground on the ReFresh Project, which will bring a Whole Foods Market, the nonprofit Liberty’s Kitchen and Tulane University’s new Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine to Mid-City.

The 60,000-square-foot, fresh food-access development will be housed in the long-vacant Schwegmann Bros. grocery building at Broad and Bienville Streets.

Pêche Seafood opens

Chef partners Donald Link, Stephen Stryjewski and Ryan Prewitt have opened Pêche Seafood Grill at 800 Magazine St. in New Orleans’ Warehouse District.

Link said the three chefs wanted to create “a unique New Orleans seafood restaurant using the traditions of live-fire cooking techniques experienced here in the South and abroad.”

The latest restaurant in the Link Restaurant Group will feature “simply prepared coastal seafood” on an open hearth over hardwood coals, says its website, http://www.pecherestaurant.com.

Rhonda Ruckman is executive pastry chef and Tomy Lagneaux is general manager.

The opening menu is heavy on snacks and small plates ranging from $5 to $14.

Among the items are shrimp toast, stuffed mussels, fish stew, seafood gumbo, crawfish spring onion gratinee and thin short rib with garlicky chimichurri. There are also rib-eye for two for $60 and chicken diablo for $38. The latter dish is “for the table.”

Mario Batali on N.O.

In the May issue of Bon Appétit magazine, celebrity chef/restaurateur Mario Batali says New Orleans is among his favorite food cities. “In the U.S., it’s New Orleans, hands down,” he says. His other top food cities are Sydney, Melbourne and Shanghai.

Coconut cream pie

May 8 was National Coconut Cream Pie Day and Emeril’s Delmonico celebrated by sharing the New Orleans restaurant’s recipe for its coconut cream pie.