Snubs? Not Really in Twin Cities Semifinalists for James Beard Awards

Eight chefs, two restaurants, and a bar make the long list announced today

Kevin Kramer

What an honor for Daniel del Prado and the Porzana team: To be on the James Beard Award semifinalist list for Outstanding Chef is a big endorsement of what’s going on there. Porzana is not only excellent, it’s also huge. It just opened their upstairs dining room, and may be serving 500 covers in a night. At a high level. It’s the buzziest and busiest restaurant in town for a good reason.

Daniel Del Prado

Kevin Kramer

And for Oro by Nixta to be on the list for Best New Restaurant is really something for the spot I named Restaurant of the Year (so did Jon Cheng in the Star Tribune). It’s outstanding and a tribute to Gustavo and Kate Romero and their incredible little spot in Northeast. Both are included in our new Top 75 Restaurants list, too.

Kate and Gustavo Romero
Kate and Gustavo Romero

Photo by Kevin Kramer

Meteor gets a nod for Best Bar! I love Meteor Bar, the dive bar vibe pairs perfectly with the really talented cocktail staff. What a thrill for them, and I’m so happy for Robb Jones and his team.

Finally Marc Heu gets the props he deserves. He was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef for his amazing works of art at Marc Heu Patisserie in St. Paul. The move to a new location with seating helped put his skills a little more in the forefront.

And woman power to the max in the Best Chef: Midwest category for frequent semifinalist Christina Nguyen, who deserves to be a finalist. Frankly, I think she deserves to be a winner. Same for Karyn Tomlinson, who may get more national love for what she’s doing at Myriel than local (she told me last night that her location near the airport is helpful because so many people fly in to visit). I also lve seeing food truck pioneers and true culinary talents Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson on the list for their Bay City, Wisconsin outpost of Chef Shack, and Ann Ahmed who was honored for Khaluna but really showed her versatility and chops with Gai Noi in Loring Park.

If you like data (I do!), the Best Chef: Midwest category (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI) includes five chefs from the Twin Cities (I claim Chef Shack as one of us), three from Kansas City, three from Milwaukee, four from St. Louis, and one each in Fargo, Bismarck, Des Moines, Madison, Omaha.

I could nitpick and say I’m disappointed that Gustavo Romero didn’t make the list for Best Chef: Midwest. Jamie Malone also gets overlooked because she’s helming a private dining operation, Paris Dining Club, instead of a typical restaurant. I also will continue campaigning for Black Walnut Bakery’s Sarah Boetcher to be on the Best Baker list, she deserves it.

I think it’s clear that the Beard Awards have set a laser focus on improving representation and diversity in their semifinalists, finalists, and winners. I think this year’s list does a nice job of doing that while still staying true to honoring the best. You can complain this is a boring article by me, but I don’t have any major issues here! They are all great spots with teriffic people, so nice job by the James Beard Awards.