Local chefs, shows make the cut for prestigious James Beard 'food Oscars'

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Minnesota chefs and food show creators made a strong showing in the nominations for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards, announced on Tuesday. The nominees were culled from a group of semi-finalists announced earlier this winter.

The Pioneer Press reports three of the six semifinalists for Best Chef Midwest are from the metro area. They include Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market in St. Paul, Paul Berglund of Bachelor Farmer in downtown Minneapolis and Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart, located in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. The award honors outstanding chefs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.

The James Beard Foundation was founded in 1986 to promote the culinary arts and was named for cookbook author and teacher James Beard. The awards that bear his name began in 1990 and are regarded as the highest honor for restaurants and food professionals – often termed the “Oscars of the food world.”

The Star Tribune says three food programs with local ties are up to win Beard Foundation medals – again.

The St. Paul-based public radio program The Splendid Table and its host Lynne Rossetto Kasper and producers Sally Swift and Jennifer Russell are nominated in the Radio Show and Audio Broadcast category. The show won in 1998 and 2008.

Park Rapids resident Amy Thielen is nominated for a pair of the awards. In the TV Program Studio/Fixed Location category, she's nominated for Heartland Table, her Food Network show and her cookbook, "The New Midwestern Table" is up for an award in the American Cooking cookbook category. Thielen is a 2011 Beard winner for a series of articles she wrote for the Star Tribune Taste section.

The Minnesota-based producers of The Perennial Plate got the Beard nod in the Video Webcast on Location category. Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, who travel internationally to create their online weekly series about adventurous eating and the global food system, won the award last year.

Winners will be announced at awards dinners in New York City on May 2 and May 5.

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