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3 New Hampshire chefs named James Beard semifinalists

David Vargas
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Courtesy
David Vargas, the chef and owner behind the Portsmouth Mexican restaurant Vida Cantina, is nominated in a national category for Outstanding Chef, recognizing someone “who sets high culinary standards and has served as a positive example for other food professionals, while contributing positively to their broader community.”

Chefs from Portsmouth, Exeter and Jackson earned spots as semifinalists in the James Beard Awards, a competition that’s known in some circles as “the Oscars of the food industry.”

David Vargas, the chef and owner behind the Portsmouth Mexican restaurant Vida Cantina, is nominated for the national title of Outstanding Chef, recognizing someone “who sets high culinary standards and has served as a positive example for other food professionals, while contributing positively to their broader community.”

In an Instagram post reacting to the news, Vargas thanked his family and colleagues for their support, adding: “But most of all thank you to our seacoast community for supporting us thru everything!”

In an earlier interview with NHPR, Vargas said he hoped to use his restaurant “as a platform for the voice of everybody, for the voices of people that can't talk.”

Read more: For Portsmouth chef David Vargas, ‘Vida Cantina’ is more than just a restaurant. It’s a platform for local BIPOC communities.

Two other local chefs are semifinalists for the honor of Best Chef in the Northeast: Jeff Fournier, of the Thompson House Eatery in Jackson, and Paul Callahan, of Vino e Vivo in Exeter. Fournier was a semifinalist for the same award, alongside Vargas, last year.

"I’m very humbled to find this out," Callahan wrote on Instagram. "But, I honestly could not have done it with out a great owner, a great team and a great community."

The team at Thompson House Eatery, in their own Instagram post, said it was "an honor to be nominated and a joy to share that honor with other chefs we've had the pleasure of getting to know."

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