James Beard Awards Semifinalists Announced for 2011

(Updated 2/22)

Once again a long list of semifinalists have been announced by the James Beard Foundation. In case you’ve forgotten, Portland will host the announcement of the nominees of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday, March 21st, 2011 at an invitation-only press luncheon at the Oregon Culinary Institute. This is the day after a benefit fundraiser dinner at the Multnomah Athletic Club featuring past and present JBF Award-winners and nominees. I’ve had multiple emails about whether tickets are still available for this event. The answer is no, and there is a long waiting list. However, for those who can’t wait for the next morning’s paper, you’ll be able to follow that event as it is happening via their Twitter feed: @beardfoundation.

The final award winners will be announced at the James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony on May 9th in new York at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.

You can see the entire list here in .pdf form, but I’ll save you some work. Here are the local nominees:

Best Chef, Northwest (Seattle included):

Matthew Bennett, Sybaris, Albany, OR
John Gorham, Toro Bravo, Portland, OR
Christopher Israel, Grüner, Portland, OR
Jenn Louis, Lincoln, Portland, OR
Andy Ricker, Pok Pok, Portland, OR
Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon, Portland, OR
Cathy Whims, Nostrana
Seif Chirchi and Rachel Yang, Joule, Seattle
Matt Dillon, Sitka & Spruce, Seattle
Chris Ainsworth, Safron Mediterranean Kitchen, Walla Walla, WA
Mark Fuller, Spring Hill, Seattle
Ethan Stowell, Staple & Fancy Mercantile, Seattle
Jason Stratton, Spinasse, Seattle

Rising Star Chef

Matt Lightner of Castagna
Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon

Outstanding Restaurant:

Cafe Juanita, Kirkland, WA
Higgins Restaurant and Bar, Portland, OR (just sayin’)

Outstanding Pastry Chef:

Ken Forkish, Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Portland, OR

Because I think it is an interesting list, here are all the Outstanding Restaurant nominees:

Blue Hill, NYC
Boulevard, San Francisco
Cafe Juanita, Kirkland, WA
Eleven Madison Park, NYC
Fore Street, Portland, ME
Herbsaint, New Orleans
Higgins Restaurant and Bar, Portland, OR
Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL
La Belle Vie, Minneapolis
Lola, Cleveland
Magnolia Grill, Durham, NC
The Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on
Turtle Creek, Dallas
Mélisse, Santa Monica, CA
Palena, Washington, D.C.
Picasso at Bellagio, Las Vegas
The Slanted Door, San Francisco
Spiaggia, Chicago
Tru, Chicago
Vetri, Philadelphia
Vincent on Camelback, Phoenix

I’d link to the JamesBeard.org website, but it’s down at the moment.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Leo says

    Nice to see Portland getting an edge on Seattle (albeit just barely at 7-6) in the Best Chef NW category and I’ve gotta say it’s kind of curious how Gabe Rucker is still a “rising star” after all these years. Hasn’t Le Pigeon technically been around longer than Nostrana has, too?

  2. sweetnsavory says

    outstanding restaurant list is a bit of the “tried and true/place to go if you are a “foodie” visiting that city” list …not necessarily bad, but even I have eaten at over half the places over the years…

  3. JandJ says

    I thought I might have seen Higgins on the “Best Restaurant” list, but clearly that must have either been a misprint or my having misread it. Or, did I just beam into an alternative Portland somewhere with a Higgins that actually still belongs on that list. Just sayin’.

  4. michelle says

    @bird A Chef can nominate himself/herself. Your publicist can nominate you. Any member of the public can nominate any Chef or Restaurant up until 12/31.

    Authors generally have to submit articles/books that they want to be considered for a Beard Award.

    Who decides who makes the finals, I’m not sure, but it sure as hell pays to have a good publicist on your payroll.

    • pearl district says

      This just isn’t true. While it’s true the public can nominate, each region has a panel who actually decides who makes this list. It usually includes the top food writers/professionals plus chefs that have already won. I’m sure it would be rather easy to guess who has the votes locally. While having a good publicist will help get one connected to the Beard Foundation to perhaps do an event or a dinner at the James Beard House in NYC, the voting and the events are separate, and despite what your publicist might tell you, paying the thousands to send your staff and ingredients to do a dinner at the Beard house isn’t going to get you on this list–though it probably will help expose you to the NY media which might help in the long run.

  5. Jeanine says

    Steve McCarthy of Clear Creek Distillery was overlooked on this post…..nominated for Outstanding Wine & Spirits professional!

  6. Heidi Yorkshire says

    I was a judge for the James Beard Restaurant Awards for more than 10 years. Unless the system has changed since I was involved, here’s how it works: Anyone can nominate anyone, or themselves. The regional committee then goes over the nominations and chooses the so-called semi-final list. Until last year or so, the semi-final list was not announced to the public; judges voted privately, and then five top-scoring “finalists” for each award were announced. Chefs — or anyone else who makes a living in the restaurant industry, whether or not they’ve won an award — are prohibited from voting. It’s also true that, while the judging guidelines suggest that voters only vote for restaurants in which they have had a meal, there is no way to check if that is so. (For the record, I was a judge when I was a journalist, and I resigned from judging when I started a business that would sell to the restaurant trade.)

    After more than 20 years, the Beard awards are losing their cachet. The committee’s decision to announce these huge lists of semi-finalists, so that dozens and dozens of chefs around the nation can call themselves James Beard nominees, is devaluing the awards and hastening their slide into meaninglessness.

    As far as the benefit of cooking at the Beard House is concerned, I am not aware of any serious New York food journalists who go to those meals or have any interest in what’s going on there. (One friend, a former NY Times dining editor, calls the Beard House, “an eating club for people from the suburbs.”) Chefs use a Beard House “invitation” as a public-relations ploy to gin up attention in their home towns, because the hometown papers lap this stuff up. So they do their “Beard House menu” at the home restaurant, get a certain amount of attention regionally, and it’s worth the $10-20K it costs to do.

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