Among the new faces this year for best chef: Midwest are Karen Bell, the chef-owner of Bavette La Boucherie at 330 E. Menomonee St.
Restaurant and chef semifinalists for the 27th-annual Beard Awards are selected from a list of more than 24,000 online entries. She was not familiar with James Beard Foundation, which oversees what many consider the Oscars of the food world, and who had to be told why this was a pretty big deal.
Senia, at 75 N. King Street, was nominated in the Best New Restaurant category, while Vino, at 500 Ala Moana in Waterfront Plaza, was nominated in the Outstanding Wine Program category.
Maggie Huff is a semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef for her gorgeous work at FT33.
Jeff Smedstad, a Chandler native who previously cooked at Los Sombreros in Scottsdale, has operated the acclaimed Elote Cafe in Sedona for 10 years. Fleer is a four-time James Beard Award finalist, and has been nominated multiple times. See this year's full semifinalist list at the end of this press release or online at jamesbeard.org/awards.
Meanwhile, the James Beard Foundation once again honored Scott Anderson of Princeton's Elements, Joey Baldino of Collingswood's Zeppoli and Dan Richer of Jersey City's Razza Pizza Artigianale of Jersey City with nominations for best chef Mid-Atlantic.
Miami's most beloved bread maker, Zak Stern, AKA Zak the Baker, has received a nod for the Outstanding Baker award and Stephen Starr (Upland, Le Zoo, the Continental, Makoto, and Steak 954) was nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur. Those nominees will be revealed in real time on Facebook Live and Twitter.
Five finalists per category will be unveiled March 15, and the winners will be announced May 1 at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.