Dinette's Finn, Elements' Severino nominated for Food & Wine award

Sonja Finn, 31, chef/owner of Dinette in East Liberty, is a regional nominee for the new Food & Wine Magazine award, "The People's Best New Chef."

So is Justin Severino, executive chef of Elements Contemporary Cuisine, Downtown.

Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Ms. Finn serves thin-crust pizzas, salads, soups and hearty small plates crafted from largely local ingredients. Ms. Finn, whose experience includes working at San Francisco's legendary Zuni Cafe, was a semi-finalist for the James Beard "Rising Star Chef" in 2009 and 2010.

A Pittsburgh native, she began as a prep cook at age 18 for Toni Pais at Baum Vivant.

Chef Severino, 32, a native of Ashtabula, Ohio, trained at the Pennsylvania Culinary School (now Le Cordon Bleu) and previously worked at Eleven in the Strip District. There he got to exercise his butchery and charcuterie chops learned in California, at famed farm-to-table restaurant Manresa as well as at his own charcuterie business, where he used only local meats.

The award

Food & Wine says the nominees "are all talented innovators, who have run their kitchens for five or fewer years." The winner will be determined by popular vote. (Food & Wine's editors will continue to select the magazine's Best New Chef Award.)

For this award the magazine, "with the help of its trusted sources, chefs and food insiders," compiled a list of 100 nominees, 10 each from 10 regions across the United States.

Chef Finn and Chef Severino were nominated for the Mid-Atlantic region, along with eight others. Nominee bios appear at foodandwine.com/peoples-best-new-chef.

The vote

Anyone may vote once for each region. But the chef who receives the most votes overall wins. So for a local nominee's numbers to fare best, it won't help to vote for chefs from other regions, however tempting that may be. It is voter's choice, of course. To vote go to eatocracy.com/foodandwine. The People's award will be announced on March 2.

Virginia Phillips: vredpath@aol.com


Hot Topic