James Beard Award 2012
We will use this photo in perpetuity.

This morning Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel helped announce the nominees for the James Beard Awards, the highest culinary honor in the land. From a Seattle perspective, it was kind of a buzzkill after so many great local names appeared on the long list of semifinalists released last month.

Now, the good news: Blaine Wetzel is up for Rising Star Chef of the Year, the prestigious national award for chefs younger than 30.  I usually tune out a bit during the restaurant design announcements, so it was a splendid surprise to hear that Joshua Henderson's Westward is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant Design. And three deserving local chefs face off against two Portland compatriots for Best Chef Northwest.

Here are our local nominees.

Rising Star Chef of the Year

Blaine Wetzel, Willows Inn

Outstanding Restaurant Design (75 Seats or Less)

Westward, Huxley Wallace (Joshua Henderson, Matthew Parker)

Best Chef Northwest (full list):

Renee Erickson, The Whale Wins

Jason Franey, Canlis

Naomi Pomeroy, Beast

Ethan Stowell, Staple & Fancy

Cathy Whims, Nostrana

Shauna Ahern's Gluten-Free Girl Every Day is nominated in the health cookbook category, ChefSteps cofounder Grant Crilly's Cook Smarter is a contender for best video webcast (fixed location), and Craig Welch's excellent Sea Change piece in the Seattle Times is nominated for a journalism award for Food Politics, Policy, and the Environment.

The award ceremony happens May 5. Per Eater, Mario Batali and Queer Eye dreamboat Ted Allen will host. See the full list of contenders here.

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