By Jason DeRusha

Two Minnesota chefs have a chance to be named Best Chef for the Midwest Region by the James Beard Foundation. Lenny Russo from Heartland Restaurant, and Paul Berglund from The Bachelor Farmer were both named finalists for the awards, often called the “Oscars of the food world,” were announced March 15.

No one has been in the finals in Minnesota more than Lenny Russo. This is his sixth time as a nominee, he’s been a semifinalist three more times. As executive chef and owner of Heartland, he’s credited for bringing a focus of Minnesota ingredients to a fine dining atmosphere. He just launched a cookbook “Heartland: Farm Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest.”

“I have to give credit to everyone who works with me.  This nomination, as were the previous nominations, is not just for me, but it is for the entire Heartland team, both past and present,” Russo said. “I do not know if this is my year.  I will leave that to the voters.”

Even though The Bachelor Farmer just opened in 2011, executive chef Paul Berglund has been named a semifinalist as Best Chef Midwest three times, and he’s made it to the final five every year since 2014. For what it’s worth, this food reporter declared a summer meal at The Bachelor Farmer to be the best meal of 2015.

“It really is a huge honor,” said Berglund, about the finalist nod. “Proud to represent Minnesota!”

These two nominees were culled from a list of 12 chef semifinalists, announced in February.

Three local chefs were up for national awards (Michelle Gayer and John Kraus for baker and Diane Yang for pastry chef) but none of them made it to the list of finalists.

Three Minnesotans were named finalists in the Broadcast Media and Journalism awards. Andrew Zimmern was nominated as Outstanding Personality/Host for Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, and also nominated for his blog at

WCCO Radio host Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl was nominated for the Distinguished Restaurant Review Award for her Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine reviews.

Minneapolis chef Raghavan Iyer was named a finalist in the Video Webcast category for “Indian Curries: The Basics & Beyond” as aired on

The finalists are all listed here. Media award winners will be announced on April 26 in New York City, the chef and restaurant awards happen in Chicago on May 2.

Jason DeRusha