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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Mystic chef David Standridge wins James Beard Award

    From left, Chef David Standridge of The Shipwright's Daughter and Chef Renee Touponce, of The Port of Call, both finalists for James Beard Awards, laugh while being honored during a Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce celebration Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at Mystic River Park. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    David Standridge, executive chef of The Shipwright's Daughter in Mystic, won a coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast during a ceremony Monday night in Chicago.

    He was one of five finalists in that category.

    “I’ve been an executive chef for over 12 years. This recognition was something I thought the time had passed,” he said in his acceptance speech.

    Standridge thanked his team at The Shipwright’s Daughter and explained that they use sustainable, local wild seafood, which he noted is hard work.

    “We’re in a town where people want lobster rolls and fried clams, and we’re serving primarily fish that no one’s ever heard of before,” he said.

    He said that the restaurant opened in June 2020, which was probably the worst time in 100 years to open a restaurant. He thanked the owners for all the support to finally turn a corner and get to this point.

    Standridge said he had asked his 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, to help him write a speech, and she suggested he not forget to thank her and her brother Robert. Standridge said he did need to thank them and explained, “When they came along is when my perspective as a chef shifted from doing what was best for me to doing something that was best for the community and for the next generation to leave this world a little better than I found it.”

    He thanked his wife, Kathleen, too, for being the storyteller who got the word out about the work they are doing at The Shipwright’s Daughter.

    Another Mystic chef, Renee Touponce of The Port of Call, was up for the national category of Outstanding Chef. She was one of five finalists, and the winner was Michael Rafidi of Albi in Washington, D.C.

    Touponce, who is also executive chef of Oyster Club, is the first Connecticut chef to be a finalist in the Outstanding Chef category. It was Touponce's second year in a row being a James Beard finalist for her work at The Port of Call. Last year, she was in the Best Chef: Northeast category.

    The James Beard Awards are to chefs what the Oscars are to actors and the Grammys are to musicians.

    This year is the first time that two chefs from Mystic have been finalists for the award.

    The James Beard Foundation website states the awards honor “chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions while contributing positively to their broader community.”

    The James Beard Awards features 22 categories, and the finalists represent more than 100 restaurants.

    Outstanding chef is one of the three top prizes, with outstanding restaurateur and restaurant being the other two.

    Tanya Holland, chair of the awards committee, told the Associated Press about how being a finalist can help increase interest and business: “People are working hard to make things happen and they know that this can be a game-changer,” she said.

    Restaurants apply for the awards. Judges go to the various sites to sample the food and then vote. It’s not just food; a behavioral code of ethics, including how employees are treated, is also included in the judging.

    k.dorsey@theday.com

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