Coco chef Unmi Abkin named a semifinalist for James Beard Award — again

Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 28, 2019. By Luis Fieldman.

EASTHAMPTON — Named a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for the fourth year in a row, chef Unmi Abkin of Coco & The Cellar Bar says it’s an “honor to be acknowledged.”

The James Beard Foundation announced its list of restaurant and chef award semifinalists on Wednesday, and Abkin was one of 20 nominated for best chef in the Northeast. Other categories include best new restaurant and rising star chef of the year.

“It’s an affirmation for the kitchen and all the people in the restaurant that work so hard to provide good food and service,” Abkin said on Thursday.

Among other popular dishes, the restaurant is known for its fried chicken served with garlic mashed potatoes, jalapeno slaw, cilantro and chili oil. Abkin and her husband, Roger Taylor, opened the restaurant in 2011.

Abkin is the only chef from western Massachusetts to receive the prestigious nomination, and she said being recognized by the James Beard Foundation helps attract customers to Easthampton.

“There are people that try to look for James Beard-nominated restaurants,” Abkin said. “It brings people this way … and recognition for the food scene here, and not just us.”

She added, “Easthampton is just booming with great chefs.”

In September, Abkin and Taylor are planning on publishing a cookbook tentatively titled “Curry and Kimchi,” with Storey publishers in North Adams.

The final nominees for all James Beard Awards will be announced on March 27.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at