Chefs from two Salt Lake City restaurants are regional finalists in the James Beard culinary awards

Ali Sabbah and Nick Zocco are finalists for outstanding chef in the Mountain region.

(Carla Boecklin) Chef Nick Zocco, of Urban Hill in Salt Lake City, was named as a finalist Wednesday in the James Beard Awards, in the Best Chef: Mountain category.

Two Utah chefs have been named as regional finalists for 2024 in the esteemed James Beard awards.

The James Beard Foundation, in a news release Wednesday, named these chefs as finalists for Best Chef: Mountain category, which covers Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming:

• Ali Sabbah, Mazza Cafe, 1515 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City. (Sabbah was a finalist last year as well, the first from Utah to get such an honor.)

• Nick Zocco, Urban Hill, 510 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City.

When the foundation named its semifinalists in January, David Chon of Bar Nohm and Dave Jones of Log Haven were listed along with Sabbah and Zocco.

Table X Bread, a bakery attached to the Table X restaurant at 1457 E. 3300 South in Millcreek, was included as one of 20 national contenders in the Outstanding Bakery category in January but didn’t make it to the finals. And Valter’s Osteria, at 173 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, made the semifinal list for Outstanding Hospitality — a feat it accomplished in 2022.

With more than two decades of restaurant experience under his belt, Zocco came to Salt Lake City from the upscale restaurant Tupelo in Park City, according to his bio. He started his career in New Mexico, working at La Casa Sena and La Boca.

Urban Hill, a fine-dining restaurant where Zocco is executive chef, opened in 2022 in Salt Lake City’s Post District.

On Wednesday, Zocco told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was “ecstatic” over his finalist nomination.

“I think this is just a really good thing for Salt Lake City itself,” he said. “The culinary scene in Salt Lake City is changing pretty rapidly. ... To be part of it is really exciting and fun. I hope we get more people out to Urban Hill and see what we’re doing because we have a lot of great people working behind us.

Zocco continued, “I’m super thrilled obviously for myself but everybody else as well. Hope it brings some good luck to us down the road.”

Mazza, which has been serving Middle Eastern food for more than 20 years in Salt Lake City’s 15th & 15th neighborhood, posted Wednesday about Sabbah’s nomination on Instagram:

“Here we come Chicago! Thank you everyone for all the love and support. We are more than ecstatic for another chance at winning Best Chef: Mountain from @beardfoundation again! Huge congratulations to Nick Zocco @urbanhillslc. What an incredible lineup to compete against. Thank you all again.”

The winners will be awarded in a ceremony in Chicago on June 10.