Cheaper by the James Beard Dozen

Ten chefs and two restaurants were named to the 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist list

Spoon and Stable.
The finishing touch is added to a dish at Spoon and Stable, led by James Beard Award-winning Gavin Kaysen

photo by tj turner

In case you didn’t get the pun, we’ve got a whopping 12 different names and restaurants on the 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist list, including newcomers such as locally loved Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai and familiar honoree faces such as Michelle Gayer of The Salty Tart.

Here’s the list of Minnesota semifinalists:

Best New Restaurant: Grand Cafe. A talented crew from the bar to the hospitality to the cuisine, candlelight and hand-painted wallpaper, a Foie Gras Royale in a duck-foot egg cup … If you want to go to a place where every detail is meticulous but not beaten over the head with a spoon, this is it.

Outstanding Baker: Michelle Gayer, The Salty Tart. Get made-from-scratch everything (the newest location is in St. Paul’s Market House Collaborative) from the pastry chef who has gotten nine nods from the Foundation over the years.

Outstanding Chef: Alex Roberts, Restaurant Alma. Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma already won Best Chef: Midwest in 2010, and now he’s up for contention for Best Chef, period.  

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Diane Yang, Spoon and Stable. Yang makes the perfect dessert, a balance of flavors and textures, beautiful but not too superfluous. Stop by and see what years of mastery tastes like in the form of a honey and cream cake.

Outstanding Service: 112 Eatery. 112 Eatery has gotten a lot of attention for Isaac Becker’s New American food, but under the front-of-house management of his wife, Nancy St. Pierre, it’s the whole package.

And for James Beard Awards for Best Chef: Midwest, we have … 

Thomas Boemer, Corner Table. Earlier this year, Boemer represented Minnesota in Taste of the NFL, so it’s not much of a surprise to see him here. Enjoy the daily prixe menu at Corner Table for Low Country flavors and French execution for the most direct route to see Boemer’s soul.

Steven Brown, Tilia. Brown has cooked all over the world, gracing kitchens in New York City, Italy, and Mexico, and since 2008, he has poured his experiences in Tilia’s open kitchen, a tribute to American cuisine.

Lisa Carlson, Chef Shack. So the official nominated address is for their location in Bay City, Wisconsin, not their Minneapolis one, but Carlson dreamed up her famous soft shell crab sandwiches here.

Gavin Kaysen, Spoon and Stable. I’m going to go out on a limb and say no one is surprised that the 2008 James Beard Rising Star chef is nominated. It really was more of a 50-50 between this and Bellecour, his French masterpiece in Wayzata.

Ann Kim, Young Joni. Yes, Ann Kim also runs Hello Pizza, and Pizzeria Lola. But if you’re trying to figure out which one to go to first, this one was the James Beard pick. And it has a secret back bar.

Jamie Malone, Grand Cafe. Malone’s been running Grand Cafe solo since her husband, chef Erik Anderson, went to run Coi in San Francisco, but there hasn’t been a bump in the road during the transition (or a waver in the ecstatic reviews coming in about her seafood).

Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai. She and her husband’s first restaurant got its start as a food truck in 2011, but we suppose recognition is better late than never. Plus, Hai Hai’s menu, full of Vietnamese street food and the dishes Nguyen grew up eating at her dinner table, is definitely worth the nod on its own.