TV host Bill Maher last week patronizingly likened Midwest food to "Chef Boyardee," so here's a story to prove how wrong he is.
That's because Twin Cities restaurants are once again well represented in the semifinals of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards.
The James Beard contenders were announced on Wednesday morning, with Minnesota competing in six national categories.
Meanwhile, seven Twin Cities chefs are in the running for the regional "Best Chef: Midwest" award that was won last year by Spoon & Stable's Gavin Kaysen.
National contenders include Rikki Giambruno of St. Paul's Hyacinth, who is in the running for Rising Star Chef of the Year, while Spoon & Stable/Bellecour's Diane Moua is once again nominated for Pastry Chef of the Year.
Restaurant Alma in Northeast Minneapolis is nominated in the "Outstanding Restaurant" category – the equivalent of a "Best Picture" Oscar –while another Northeast eatery, Mexican-inspired Popol Vuh, is in the running for "Best New Restaurant."
The chefs competing for this year's title of "Best Chef: Midwest" include Thomas Boemer, of the acclaimed "In Bloom" at St. Paul's Keg & Case food hall, Daniel del Prado of Martina, and Christina Nguyen of the celebrated Hai Hai.
Here's a full list of the Minnesota nominees.
Rising Star Chef of the Year
Rikki Giambruno, Hyacinth, St. Paul
Best New Restaurant
Popol Vuh, Minneapolis
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Diane Moua, Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis
Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis
Brenda Langton and Timothy Kane, Spoonriver, Minneapolis
Outstanding wine program
The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis
Best Chef: Midwest
Thomas Boemer, In Bloom, St. Paul
Steven Brown, Tilia, Minneapolis
Daniel del Prado, Martina, Minneapolis
Ann Kim, Young Joni, Minneapolis
Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai, Minneapolis
Karyn Tomlinson, Corner Table, Minneapolis
Jamie Malone, Grand Café, Minneapolis