BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A chef with longtime ties to the Birmingham area is up for an award by the James Beard Foundation, while two other restaurants have also been nominated for different awards.
Timothy Hontzas, head chef and owner of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, has been named a semifinalist for Best Chef in the South by the foundation, which recognizes the best chefs and restaurants in the culinary world.
Hontzas, who opened Johnny’s in 2012, was previously named a semifinalist for Best Chef last year, as well as 2019. Hontzas comes from a long line of chefs. His grandfather, Johnny Hotzopolous, started three restaurants in Mississippi before starting a previous Johnny’s with his father, Connie, in 1954. His uncle, Gus, was the longtime owner of Niki’s West in Birmingham.
“I [remember] washing dishes in my grandfather’s restaurant,” Hontzas said during an interview with CBS 42 in 2019. “And when I say grandfather, Pappouli, or Johnny, that’s the name of the restaurant, it’s all an homage to him.”
In addition to Hontzas, Pizza Grace and Bottega Cafe have been nominated for Best New Restaurant and Outstanding Hospitality.
Pizza Grace was started by Ryan Westover in 2022 and is located at Mercantile on Morris along Morris Avenue. Westover also operates a bakery out of the shop called Bakeshop Grace.
Bottega is one of several restaurants owned by popular Birmingham restauranteur Frank Stitt, who himself was named Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2001. Bottega first opened in 1988 and has been a staple of the city’s food scene ever since.
Several Birmingham restaurants and chefs have won awards from the James Beard Foundation over the years. The most recent winner was Adam Evans of Automatic Seafood and Oysters, who was named Best Chef in the South last year.