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James Beard semifinalists announced!

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The James Beard Foundation recently announced the semi-finalists for its restaurant/chef awards and I was pleased to see many local names on the list. Larry and Richard D'Amico, of D'Amico & Partners, were nominated in the Outstanding Restaurateur category; La Belle Vie in Outstanding Wine Service; Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Bar La Grassa as a contender for Best New Restaurant; and Sameh Wadi, Saffron Restaurant & Lounge, Minneapolis for Rising Star Chef. The competition is stiff in the national categories, so local winners tend to be long shots. But on the heels of Tim McKee's big win for Best Chef: Midwest 2009, we have a strong chance at taking the category again this year. Here's who's in the race:

BEST CHEF: MIDWEST Isaac Becker, 112 Eatery, Minneapolis Jennifer Coco, The Flatiron Cafe, Omaha, NE Gerard Craft, Niche, St. Louis Linda Duerr, Zest, Leawood, KS George Formaro, Centro, Des Moines, IA Vincent Francoual, Vincent, Minneapolis Josh Galliano, Monarch, St. Louis Colby Garrelts, Bluestem, Kansas City, MO Nicholas Johnson, Restaurant Magnus, Madison, WI Steve Logsdon, Lucca, Des Moines, IA Håkan Lundberg, Cosmos, Minneapolis Peggy Magister, Crazy Water, Milwaukee Mike Phillips, The Craftsman, Minneapolis Alexander Roberts, Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis Lenny Russo, Heartland, St. Paul, MN Dario Schicke, Dario's Brasserie, Omaha, NE Matt Steigerwald, Lincoln Café, Mount Vernon, IA Dan Van Rite, Hinterland, Milwaukee Jim Webster, Wild Rice, Bayfield, WI Stewart Woodman, Heidi's, Minneapolis

Nice to see so many TC names on the list again this year--it probably helped that a whole slew of Beard Committee members were in town this summer and had the opportunity to visit multiple restaurants. Becker, Russo, Roberts, and Woodman are repeats this year, joined by newcomers Francoual, Lundberg, and Phillips. Big kudos to all the nominees and their staffs! The shortlist of finalists will be distributed on March 22, and winners announced at the May 3rd awards ceremony.