The Best Chef Northwest category of the James Beard Awards will be free of first-time jitters, with every nominee having been previously honored by the foundation.
Canlis' Jason Franey (better known as the winner of last night's Cochon 555 festivities), along with Portland's Naomi Pomeroy of Beast and Cathy Whims of Nostrana, are reprising their finalist roles from last year. They're joined by Ethan Stowell, a four-time finalist last shortlisted in 2011, and Portland's Gabriel Rucker, who in 2011 won the Rising Star Chef of the Year award on his fourth attempt.
In this year's Rising Chef division, the Willows Inn's Blaine Wetzel faces Jimmy Bannos, Jr., Danny Bowien, Thomas McNaughton and David Posey. In a tweet, Hugh Acheson called the category "a power bracket," although that descriptor might be better applied to his home region's Best Chef contest, featuring the likes of Ashley Christensen, Edward Lee, Joseph Lenn, Steven Satterfield and Tandy Wilson.
Seattle writers didn't crack too many of the journalism and book categories, but Modernist Cuisine at Home picked up a General Cooking nomination and The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook is matched against Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast and Bouchon Baking in the Baking and Dessert division.
If Bouchon Baking is classified as a northern California book, the sweets section represents the rare category with a strong west coast showing. In many of the most prestigious restaurant categories, San Francisco was the only city west of Chicago to score a nomination:
In the Outstanding Bar Program category, Bar Agricole takes on The Aviary (Chicago), NoMad (New York City), Holeman Finch & Public House (Atlanta), Pegu Club (New York City) and The Violet Hour (Chicago), while State Bird Provisions and Rich Table are vying for Best New Restaurant alongside Empellon Cocina (New York City), Grace (Chicago) and The Ordinary (Charleston, S.C.)
The pattern repeats in the categories for Outstanding Service and Outstanding Restaurant, in which The Slanted Door is competing with August (New Orleans), Blue Hill (New York), Highlands Bar and Grill (Birmingham, Ala.) and Spiaggia (Chicago.)
The James Beard Awards will be presented in New York City on May 3 and May 6. The complete finalists' list, released this morning, is here.