Finalists will be announced on Wednesday, March 25.
Outstanding Pastry Chef | Claudia Martinez, Tiny Lou's
A Georgia-raised Venezuelan, Claudia Martinez’s grandmother kickstarted her culinary career from a young age, immersing her in the world of cooking, baking, and naturally – eating. After donning a cap and gown from Johnson & Wales University in 2015, Martinez returned to the Peach State to earn her chops alongside James Beard-nominated pastry chef Aaron Russell at Atlanta’s Restaurant Eugene, igniting her passion for fine dining before transitioning to Buckhead’s Umi. On a mission to expand her repertoire of notable colleagues, Martinez relocated to Sweden in 2017 where she studied with chef David Vidal at the Laholmen Hotel. Following her return to the states, Martinez landed a gig as pastry assistant at Atlas in Atlanta, before ultimately joining the Indigo Road crew at Tiny Lou’s as part of the opening team in 2018. Before Tiny Lou's hit its first anniversary, she was named an Eater Young Gun in April 2019 – one of 12 recipients nationwide – and recently competed on Food Network’s Chopped Sweets, making it to the final round.
Co-owner and general manager Neal McCarthy, who partnered with executive chef Steven Satterfield to open Miller Union in 2009, is a certified sommelier focused on selecting remarkable wines from small producers that adhere to biodynamic and organic practices. This mindset perfectly complements the restaurant’s philosophy of offering sustainable and locally sourced fare that highlights the robust culinary history of the South and celebrates each season. The wine list, much like the menu, is both creative and refined with an approachable elegance. Committed to excellent service, Neal’s welcoming personality and attention to detail combine to create a pleasing atmosphere in the dining room where sophistication and comfort are skillfully balanced.
Outstanding Restaurateur | Steve Palmer
Steve Palmer is the managing partner of the hospitality and consulting company, The Indigo Road Hospitality Group and author of Say Grace: How the Restaurant Business Saved My Life. The Indigo Road started in 2009 in Charleston, S.C., when Palmer began working with the celebrated restaurant Oak Steakhouse on historic Broad Street. The hospitality group now owns and operates more than 20 concepts throughout the Southeast. These properties include O-Ku (Charleston, Charlotte, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Raleigh, Nashville), The Cocktail Club (Charleston), The Macintosh (Charleston), Indaco (Charleston, Charlotte), Oak Steakhouse (Alpharetta, Ga., Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Alexandria, Va.), Colletta (Alpharetta, Ga.), Mercantile and Mash (Charleston), Bar Mash (Charleston), The Cedar Room (Charleston), Town Hall (Florence, S.C.), Tiny Lou’s (Atlanta), Donetto (Atlanta) and Sukoshi (Charlotte, Atlanta).