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Alabama Chef Timothy Hontzas Finalist for James Beard Award

You can find Greek food even deep down in Alabama and some of the best is at Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, so good that chef and owner Timothy Hontzas is a finalist for the coveted James Beard Award for his menu.

It’s named for his grandfather, who hopped on a cattle boat from Greece and came to America at 17. With almost no money, he turned to cooking as a way of life, opening Johnny’s in 1956 in Mississippi.

Hontzas told the Homewood Star that his grandfather taught him a strong work ethic, as did his father, who also ran the family’s restaurants. “You’ve got to want to make it in life, and you’ve got to want to work,” he said.

Pictures of his father and grandfather line the walls of Johnny’s Restaurant, accompanied by newspaper clippings telling of their awards, their food, and their stories.

This year, Hontzas has made it to the final round, nominated for best chef of the South, and Johnny’s was also a semifinalist in the category of ‘best hospitality.’

Being nominated and making it to the finalist round carries “unprecedented meaning,” Hontzas said.

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