No longer competing with the over-familiar California scene for the highly coveted Best Chef award, the James Beard Foundation has nominated four Las Vegas chefs as semi-finalists for the prestigious prize, ahead of the finalist award announcements on Wednesday, March 25. The James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 4, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Joining 20 fellow recipients across Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma in the southwest region, Spring Valley’s Other Mama is the oldest restaurant to be recognized, handing chef and restaurateur Dan Krohmer a first JBF nod for his Japanese-influenced dishes. Krohmer is also behind the more recent Japanese robata-style of Hatsumi and Mexican-inspired menu of La Monja, both at Fergusons Downtown.
Upscale Locale Italian Kitchen, the newest restaurant found worthy by the judges, has been open less than a year, helmed by chef Nicole Brisson, long a local favorite for her previous tenure at Carnevino and Eataly on the Strip.
And judges also headed downtown to discover chef James Trees and his seasonally inspired menu at Esther’s Kitchen on Casino Center Boulevard. Trees was chef tournant at Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace when it won the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant prize in 2004.
Other chefs and restaurants with Las Vegas ties that were nominated include Marc Vetri, who opened Vetri Cucina at the Palms, for Outstanding Chef, and Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ for Outstanding Restaurant. Choi has Best Friend at the Park MGM.
The James Beard Foundation reconfigured its regional categories in its annual Restaurant & Chef Awards, giving California its own regional category; moving Nevada into the Southwest category with Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma; and creating a new Northwest & Pacific category with Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington last September. Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming become part of the Mountain category; Texas gets its own regional category; New York City and the five boroughs, which have been a standalone category, join the rest of New York State; while the Northeast category remains the same minus New York, with Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Other categories remain unchanged.
Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.