When the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists
for the 2016 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards on Feb. 17, two names familiar to Boise gourmands were on the list: Kris Komori, head chef at State and Lemp
and Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas, baker at Janjou Patisserie
It's the first James Beard Award nod to a Boisean since Chef Richard Langston, of Cafe Vicino, was announced as a semifinalist
for Best Chef: Northwest in 2014.
"I don't feel comfortable accepting all the praise for it," said Komori, who is in the running for Best Chef: Northwest.
State and Lemp has distinguished itself in the City of Trees for its artistic, experimental cuisine, as well as its Saturday Night Supper Club
. For Komori, his work at the popular, upscale restaurant is part of its mission to help set the tone for diners.
"This place is the experience. It's like you're transported to another place," he said. "It's like you're being taken into somebody's home."
Komori was nominated
for a People's Best New Chef award by Food and Wine
in April 2015. He said his success has been enabled by State and Lemp's prix fixe meals, which allow him to give customers a more extended, nuanced experience.
"It's symphony-type movement," he said.
Mizrachi-Gabbitas, who is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Baker category,
chalked up her nomination to hard work, patience and her personal relationship to baking.
"It fits my personality just right," she said. "Everything has to be precise."
Janjou Patisserie, located in the Marketplace next to the Albertsons on 17th and State streets, combines French-style pastries with Italian-style coffee. It takes Mizrachi-Gabbitas three days to make a batch of croissants, and she said she doesn't skimp on time, ingredients or consistency.
"The hard work, the dedication—that's what sets us apart," she said. "If I have a new employee in the kitchen, it shouldn't show in the product."
Komori and Mizrachi-Gabbitas are optimistic about Boise's future as a food hub. Mizrachi-Gabbitas said Boiseans are becoming more selective about their food, and are increasingly willing to pay a premium for high-quality, lovingly prepared fare.
"We need more of that," she said.
For Komori, the growing number of quality restaurants and chefs in Boise is in part a result of chefs returning after gaining experience in the food industry in larger cities. He said in his time here, Boise's food scene has improved tremendously.
"A lot of people are moving back, and they're bringing this experience back," he said. "Even from the time I moved here, it's been on the upswing. You can feel the growth."