I’ve never been big on NCAA basketball brackets, and I’ve only seen three of the nine contenders for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. But this, my friends—this is my season: The James Beard Awards.
Today the James Beard Foundation announced its long list of semifinalists from whence it will bestow the highest culinary honor in the land. On March 19, this group will be narrowed down to five nominees for each category. That’s when we begin parsing the odds of a Seattle versus Portland win in the Best Chef Northwest category.
This year the Foundation has added an award for Outstanding Bar Program and we rang in with just one entry, Zig Zag. Perhaps the biggest surprise (nay, thrill) was seeing Altura on the long list for Best New Restaurant, alongside the likes of Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago.
The winning chefs and restaurants will be announced May 7 at the usual gala New York blowout, an affair that often invites Seattle chefs to cook. Without further ado, here’s the list of Seattle and Washington contenders.
Best New Restaurant
Holly Smith, Cafe Juanita
Rising Star Chef of the Year
Blaine Wetzel, Willows Inn
Outstanding Wine Program
Best Chef Northwest
Chris Ainsworth, Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen (Walla Walla)
Matt Costello, The Inn at Langley (Whidbey Island)
Matt Dillon, Sitka and Spruce
Renee Erickson, Boat Street Cafe
Jason Franey, Canlis
Ethan Stowell, Staple and Fancy
Jason Stratton, Spinasse
Rachel Yang & Seif Chirchi, Joule
Outstanding Bar Program
Zig Zag Cafe
Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional
Alex Golitzin, Quilceda Creek Vintners (Snohomish)