Oregon Culinary Welcomes the 2011 James Beard Award Finalist Announcements

After an evening of imbibing and celebration, a handful of us, thirty or so, made our way to the campus of the Oregon Culinary Institute yesterday morning for the official finalist announcements of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards. With eager students darting to and fro, ready to assist arriving guests with coffee, coats, and water closet directions, media, chefs, and public relations folks mingled and mulled over the weekend’s exciting events as preparations for the luncheon were made.

A few cups of coffee in, we settled into our chairs as James Beard Foundation president Susan Ungaro took to the pedestal to announce the finalists in each category. Trying to keep up with all the names and categories, tweeting away like a mad woman, I was thrilled as a number of fantastic chefs and restaurateurs, including Matt Dillon, Ryan Hardy, Christina Tosi, Jose Andres, Tom Douglas, Christopher Kostow, Bryan Caswell, and Alex Young, were listed as finalists in their respective categories. But I definitely cheered when chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat was named to the shortlist for Best New Restaurant. What can I say…I appreciate when great things happen to great people.

Additional notables on the finalist list:

  • ABC Kitchen (NYC) – Best New Restaurant
  • Blue Hill (NYC) – Outstanding Restaurant
  • Eleven Madison Park (NYC) – Outstanding Restaurant
  • Paul Kahan, Blackbird (Chicago) – Outstanding Chef
  • Canlis (Seattle) – Outstanding Service
  • Per Se (NYC) – Outstanding Service
  • Topolobampo (Chicago) – Outstanding Service
  • Curtis Duffy, Avenues at the Peninsula (Chicago) – Best Chef: Great Lakes
  • April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig – Best Chef: New York City
  • Wylie Dufresne, wd~50 – Best Chef: New York City
  • Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon (New Orleans) – Best Chef: South
  • Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene (Atlanta) – Best Chef: Southeast

Talented Portlanders making the list: Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon for Rising Star Chef of the Year, with Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, Christopher Israel of Gruner, and Cathy Whims of Nostrana – in attendance at the luncheon and visibly overjoyed with her finalist nom – vying for Best Chef: Northwest.

You can download the full list of restaurant and chef nominees, as well as the finalists in the book and journalism categories, over at the James Beard Foundation’s website. Winners of each category will be named on Monday, May 9th at a gala event in New York City. Congrats and good luck to everyone who made the cut!

Hot on the heels of my features with Stephanie Izard and 2010 winner John Besh (this Thursday!), I’ll also have a Q&A with restaurateur Danny Meyer coming up on Daily Blender. A 2011 JBFA award nominee for his multi-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York City, I spoke with Meyer recently during his appearance at the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami and had a chance to talk with him about what makes his restaurant properties so successful. Look for that feature in mid-April!

~Jennifer Heigl

*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender

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