2018 James Beard Finalists

Minnesota chefs stay prominent in the James Beard shortlist

Young Joni serves up more than just delicious bites. Photo by TJ Turner.
James Beard Best Chef Midwest finalist Ann Kim serves up more than just good pizza at Young Joni.

After another consecutive year of having 12 Twin Cities chefs and restaurants listed as James Beard Award semifinalists, four still have their hat in the ring as finalists for the “Oscars of food.”

Minnesota has clinched three out of five finalist spots for Best Chef Midwest after snatching up seven out of 20 semifinalist spots—we count Lisa Carlson of Chef Shack as one of our own—so really, our odds just keep improving. Steven Brown of Tilia was up as a finalist for the award last year, and with that, it has become clear that Tilia is one of the quiet backbones of our culinary scene. Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable can do no wrong, and Ann Kim has helped elevate pizza (and other dishes) into the divine yet casual with her pizzeria Young Joni. Make sure to stop by one of their establishments and give them your support during this culinary award season.

If you need another reason to stop by Spoon and Stable, here it is: Diane Yang. Scratch that—she’s reason enough. Yang is the only one of the five Minnesota chefs and restaurants in the national categories to advance to the finals, and she certainly deserves her nomination as Outstanding Pastry Chef. Although she started out under some of the best names in the Twin Cities plus a stint right out of culinary school at Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit, she’s made her own mark on the pastry scene through her use of textures, restraint and flavor balance.

Besides our obvious foodie love for our chefs, we can’t ignore three—three!—other James Beard Award nominations.

Andrew Zimmern is nominated for a James Beard Award for the 11th time, and this year it’s for “Andrew in the Kitchen” under the Video Webcast, Fixed Location and/or Instructional category. Let’s see if he can pull off a fifth win, yes? American Public Media’s “The Splendid Table” caught the committee’s eye with their “Every Bite Is Precious, Buddhist Cooking in Japan” episode, reported and produced by Abigail Leonard, for the Radio Show/Audio Webcast Category. Moseying on over to print we have “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen,” a cookbook written by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley. One of Dooley’s past collaborations with Lucia Watson of Lucia’s Restaurant also received a James Beard nomination when it came out, so pairing her experience and expertise with Sherman’s vision, passion, and skill is a winning combination.

From the semifinalist round to the finals, Minnesota’s looking pretty good this year in the eyes of the James Beard Foundation. We won’t know until April 27 whether or not our team can take home the titles, but either way, this is a culinary achievement worth celebrating. We’ve got some of the best here, but we knew that all along, didn’t we?