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).
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.