The Seattle Area’s Slew of James Beard Award Nominees, Plus a Top Newbie

This week, the James Beard Foundation whittled down its list of nominees, announcing finalists for culinary distinction.

For cookbook awards, locals made the list in three categories. In “Baking and Dessert,” Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance are finalists for The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle. Nathan Myhrvold (whose lecture I attended a little over a year ago) and Maxime Bilet received a nomination in the “General Cooking” category for Modernist Cuisine at Home. And in “Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian,” Michael Natkin is a nominee for his Herbivoracious cookbook. (This carnivoracious food writer wants Natkin to wow him with a non-meat meal sometime!)

As for the chef and restaurant awards, the Seattle area has strong talent facing some stiff competition. Blaine Wetzel is a finalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year. I was lucky to dine at the Willows Inn earlier in his tenure there, and I was impressed—though I’ve also been impressed by others in the category, like Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food and Jimmy Bannos at the Purple Pig (where I had one of my most memorable meals in the past few years).

Portland outscored Seattle in the “Best Chef: Northwest” category. Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy, Nostrana’s Cathy Whims, and Le Pigeon’s Gabriel Rucker are all fabulous chefs, and I’ve enthusiastically sent  many Seattleites to their restaurants in the Rose City. Representing Seattle is Canlis’ Jason Franey, fresh from his win at Seattle’s Cochon 555. Meanwhile, Ethan Stowell is nominated under the Staple & Fancy Mercantile name, though I recently caught up with him at Bar Cotto(pictured), his new Parma-style salumeria and cocktail bar in Capitol Hill.

Cookbook award winners will be announced May 3, followed by the chef and restaurant awards on May 6. The Seattle area can celebrate now, though, as Brendan McGill just won as People’s Best New Chef in the Food & Wine magazine contest. His Hitchcock restaurant on Bainbridge Island is something special. I visited recently and picked his duck breast dish as one of the best bites in Winslow, and I’ll soon have more about the amazing food at his restaurant and adjoining deli as part of a fuller story about the culinary scene just a short ferry ride away.

 

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