Vicia's Michael Gallina Is a Finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Midwest Award

Chef Michael Gallina received a nod for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Midwest award for his work at Vicia. - JONATHAN GAYMAN
Chef Michael Gallina received a nod for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Midwest award for his work at Vicia.

On Monday, the St. Louis restaurant scene had a moment of sunshine in the midst of the COVID-19 storm thanks to the James Beard Foundation: Chef Michael Gallina was named a finalist for the organization's prestigious Best Chef Midwest award.

Gallina received the nod for his work at Vicia (4260 Forest Park Avenue, 314-553-9239), the restaurant he owns with his wife, Tara. The three-year-old establishment, located in the Cortex innovation district, is Gallina's homage to the bounty of the Midwest and is known for its vegetable-forward, wood-fired cooking.

A St. Louis native, Gallina left his hometown for the Bay Area's California Culinary Institute and got his start cooking at Bouchon and Campton Place, where he developed a close professional relationship with acclaimed chef Daniel Humm. Gallina followed Humm to Eleven Madison Park in New York City, where he worked until leaving to join Dan Barber at the revered Blue Hill at Stone Barns. There, while, serving as chef de cuisine, Gallina received his first recognition from the James Beard Foundation when it was crowned the 2015 Outstanding Restaurant.

The Best Chef Midwest nomination is the latest in a long list of honors for Gallina since he and Tara opened Vicia. In 2018, the restaurant was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation's Best New Restaurant. It was also named a Best New Restaurant in America by Eater, Esquire and Bon Appetit. That year, Gallina was also named a Best New Chef in America by Food & Wine.

The latest honor comes at a difficult time for the restaurant. Like every hospitality professional in town, the Gallinas have seen their world turned upside down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Vicia and Winslow's Table, the University City eatery the couple own, have been shuttered since March 21st and face a changed dining landscape once they reopen. Gallina alluded to the bittersweet nature of the recognition in a Facebook post that shared the news of the nomination.
It feels strange to celebrate in a time like this. Our worlds are upside down, everything we have worked so hard for throughout our careers as chefs feels like its holding on by a thread. But for a moment, to be recognized by the [James Beard Foundation] and to represent my city for something positive feels like a ray of much needed sunlight. St. Louis has fought hard through this crisis and banded together to support our community during its time of need, and I know our restaurant community will continue to fight hard to pull through and keep our passion for amazing food and hospitality at its core. I am so proud to be doing what I love and will work hard to make a positive impact no matter what comes next.
The 2020 James Beard Awards, which were postponed due to COVID-19, will be held virtually this year via the Foundation's Twitter feed. Currently, that is scheduled for September 25th.

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About The Author

Cheryl Baehr

Cheryl Baehr is the restaurant critic for the Riverfront Times and an international woman of mystery. Follow her on the socials at @cherylabaehr
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