Timing is everything: the Academy Awards are on Sunday, and today the James Beard Foundation announced restaurant and chef semifinalists for its 2013 awards, which are often shorthanded to the "Oscars of the food world."
Minnesota is represented in nine categories. Ten Twin Cities chefs from eight restaurants are recognized in a single category, Best Chef: Midwest. The award honors "Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Each candidate may be employed by any kind of dining establishment and must have been a working chef for at least the past five years. The three most recent years must have been spent in the region where the chef is presently working." (For purposes of its regional chef awards, the Beards split the country into 10 regions, including the Midwest, which covers Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri).
Semifinalists in Best Chef: Midwest include:
Mike Brown, Bob Gerken and James Winberg of Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale
Steven Brown of Tilia in Minneapolis
Mike DeCamp of La Belle Vie in Minneapolis
Doug Flicker of Piccolo in Minneapolis
Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart in Minneapolis
Jack Riebel of Butcher & the Boar in Minneapolis
Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St. Paul
Sameh Wadi of Saffron Restaurant & Lounge in Minneapolis
Trivia time. Last year’s Best Chef: Midwest winner was Tory Miller of L’Etoile in Madison, Wis.
Minneapolis chefs Isaac Becker (112 Eatery), Alex Roberts (Restaurant Alma) and Tim McKee (La Belle Vie) won in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. Russo was a nominee in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Gayer was also a previous nominee, in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category, in 2002 (when she was pastry chef at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago) and 2010.
National categories are peppered with Minnesota names, including:
Outstanding Restaurant: Lucia's in Minneapolis (pictured, above). The award honors "A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard-bearer for consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Candidates must have been in operation for at least 10 or more consecutive years."
Outstanding Chef: Tim McKee of La Belle Vie in Minneapolis. The award honors "A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Candidates must have been working as chefs for at least the past five years."
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Steve Horton of Rustica in Minneapolis. The award honors "A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries or breads and who serves as a national standard-bearer for excellence. Candidates must have been pastry chefs or bakers for at least the past five years."
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Jamie Malone of Sea Change in Minneapolis. The award honors "A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come."
Outstanding Service: Sapor Café and Bar in Minneapolis. The award honors "A restaurant that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service. Candidates must have been in operation for at least the past five years."
Outstanding Bar Program: Marvel Bar in Minneapolis. The award recognizes a restaurant or bar "That demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits and/or beer service."
Outstanding Restaurateur: Kim Bartmann of Bryant-Lake Bowl, Barbette, Red Stag Supperclub, Pat’s Tap and Bread & Pickle, all in Minneapolis. The award honors "A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and ownership. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years."