MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They are called the “Oscars of the food world.” The James Beard Foundation recently announced Minnesota is represented in nine categories.
Ten chefs from around the Twin Cities are recognized in the “Best Chef of the Midwest” category.
While that sounds like an impressive number, is it more recognition than we’ve seen in past years?
“We’re a little more adventurous. There used to be a reputation that you know, ketchup, was maybe a little too spicy for Minnesotans and now, we are pushing the boundaries,” Jason DeRusha said.
DeRusha, who does his “DeRusha Eats” segments every Saturday morning and has reviews in Minnesota Monthly Magazine, said the process to be nominated for this prestigious award is quite under the radar.
“Nobody knows when the James Beard Award judges are going to show up in your restaurant, but there they come and they will eat your food, experience your service and then they vote,” he said.
DeRusha said this year’s votes show just how far the Twin Cities food scene has come.
“Just five years ago, there were only four semi-finalists from this area,” he said. “Now there’s an expectation that in every national category, there will be one representative from the Twin Cities.”
Peter Ireland is a former James Beard semifinalist and the owner of the Lynhurst neighborhood’s newest restaurant, The Lynn on Bryant.
He said just one award in a region will create a domino effect years later.
“One of the criteria is a James Beard award winner has to have eaten in your restaurant and given a recommendation,” Ireland said.
Ireland’s worked in kitchens in New York and Chicago and he said it wasn’t a coincidence he came to Minneapolis.
“Part of the reason, my wife and I moved here is because it combined a lot of things that we wanted,” he said.
A main component? A vibrant culinary scene with a neighborhood feel.
“The fact that so many restaurants are now opening, despite the economy being a little bit weaker now is a sign that people care more about restaurants,” he said.
There are three rounds before a winner is selected in each category.
And there’s only one winner in the country.
The awards will be announced in May.
For a complete list of the semifinalists, click here.