When the 2011 James Beard Award semifinalists were announced yesterday, there were two familiar names on the list. Colby Garrelts, the chef and co-owner of Bluestem, has been named a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Midwest category. It's the fifth consecutive year that the chef has been nominated.
Chef Jonathan Justus, featured in our chef interview series last week, is a fellow nominee. In 2007, the Justus Drugstore was a semifinalist for best new restaurant.
Kansas City chefs have been recognized by the James Beard Awards in the past. Chefs Michael Smith and Debbie Gold were honored in 1999 with the Best Chef: Midwest award for their time as the chef team at the American. In 2007, chef Celina Tio, owner of Julian, was named the Best Chef: Midwest.
There are a few other nominees from Missouri. Wine Director Glenn Bardgett of Annie Gunn's in Chesterfield, Missouri, is up for outstanding wine service. And Justus and Garrelts have some area competition among the 20 semifinalists for Best Chef: Midwest. Gerard Craft of Niche, Kevin Nashan of the Sidney Street Cafe and Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus in St. Louis are up for the award. The complete list is here.
The finalists will be announced on March 21 with the awards gala slated for May 9 at Lincoln Center in New York City. Best of luck to chef Justus and chef Garrelts. If either wins, it would be another sign that the nation is waking up to the culinary scene in Kansas City.