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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 / 4:50 PM

Four Local Chefs (and one local restaurant) Score James Beard Nominations

Scribes like us spend a lot of time--justifiably, we think--touting the local dining scene. Today, then, was a day for the skeptics: the renowned James Beard Foundation announced its semi-finalists for 2012 James Beard Awards and St. Louis fared better than it ever has.

Four chefs were named semifinalists for "Best Chef: Midwest" and one restaurant was named a semifinalist in the "Best New Restaurant"category. The chefs are Gerard Craft (Niche, Brasserie by Niche, Taste, Pastaria), Josh Galliano (Monarch), Kevin Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe), and Kevin Willmann (Farmhaus). They join fellow Missouri chefs Colby Garrelts (bluestem) and Ted Habiger (Room 39) in a list of 20 Midwestern chefs, a category that, according to Beard, is comprised of 8 states (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, and WI). 

Wes Johnson's Salt (the former Savor in the CWE) was the city's sole nominee for Best New Restaurant (and the first ever to be nominated, according to Ian Froeb of the RFT).

This coincides with what I believe is the first appearance of a St. Louis chef on NBC's Today show: it was also announced today that in conjunction with their nominations, both Gerard Craft and Wes Johnson will appear in on-air cooking segments next week. Craft will appear on Monday, Feb. 27 and Johnson on Wednesday, Feb. 29. Such cooking segments generally air in the 9 a.m. hour.

The James Beard Foundation Awards were established in 1990 to honor superior national restaurants and food professionals across several dozen categories. The finalists in each category will be notified on March 19 and receive their ducats at the awards dinner in NYC on May 7. 

The P-D's Joe Bonwich also reminded us today that all four nominated chefs will cook at a dinner at Sidney Street Cafe on April 16. It's one of the stops on the Celebrity Chefs Tour, with proceeds benefiting the James Beard Foundation "by taking the spirit of the James Beard Dinners to different cities around the U.S." The local chef quartet will be joined by seven other Guest Celebrity chefs, one being adopted son Kelly English (Restaurant Iris, Kelly English Steakhouse). According to the Celebrity Chef Tour website, tickets to the dinner are $190 pp inclusive, and will be "available soon."

Something tells us that a sell-out is a shoo-in.

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Feb 22, 2012 07:46 am
 Posted by  Flip Wilson

The St. Louis food scene has grown exponentially in the last 10-12 years. I wonder if we've outpaced the rest of the country, though? Is this a foodie fad or a food renaissance that will find Americans widening their palates and learning to be great cooks in increasing numbers? Maybe dining will take some attention away from sports for our youth?

As I see it, people began eating out more and more in the 70's and 80's, chains grew like crazy. Eating out continues to grow, but America has grown out of the chain phase into more sophisticated food.

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