James Beard Award Semifinalists Announced on News 88.9 FM KNPR – Nevada Public Radio

For those too weary to fight through the lists of nominees posted below, and too exhausted from all the negative news to actually read anything, click here to hear ELV announce the JBF Vegas nominees in the honeyed, soothing, symphonic, resonant and euphonic tones for which he is known.

Or if you just can’t get enough of ELV’s writing, his radio script is available after the jump.


When people say Oscar Season, all I can think of is the Oscars of the food world, also known as the James Beard Awards, since they actually recognize something of substance, while the former just celebrate the manipulation of your emotions on the silver screen.

Those Beard Awards announced their semifinalists last Friday, and it’s a big deal in the food and restaurant universe to have your name placed on this list. Las Vegas scored ten nominations, the most ever, and I thought each deserved some local recognition for the national reputations they have worked so hard to gain.

What warmed my heart the most was seeing teeny tiny Raku being nominated for the nation’s Best New Restaurant. It’s a long shot for sure, but just seeing it get this recognition was as satisfying as any of Mitsuo Endo’s fascinating dishes.

The nominations of Saipin Chutima (of Lotus of Siam) for Best Chef Southwest, and Picasso for Outstanding Wine Service, weren’t as out of the blue (both have garnered nominations before), but speak to the continued excellence of what they do.

Two other deserving chefs Paul Bartolotta (of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare in the Wynn) and Claude Le Tohic (of Joel Robuchon in the MGM), were nominated for Best Chef Southwest, and I suppose that means all three are competing against each other. But becoming semifinalists speaks to the substance and passion behind what they do.

In the category of Outstanding Service, two Las Vegas restaurants were recognized – one being a given and the other, a newcomer to this competition. I say this because anyone who’s ever dined at Le Cirque in the Bellagio knows its service is well nigh perfect. Friendly, informative, gracious, and practically invisible when it should be and spot on when required. At Le Cirque, you never have to ask for anything (except the check); everything just magically appears or disappears exactly when it’s supposed to – and whether you know everything about food and wine or nothing, they make you feel like family within five minutes of sitting down.

Michael Mina’s NobHill Tavern in the MGM also made the list, which came as no surprise to me, but probably raised an eyebrow among those who haven’t experienced what a smooth operation this is. If the MGM (and by definition its restaurants) were easier to get to (hint hint), perhaps more locals would experience the joys of being served Sven Meade’s fabulous food.

Just like dessert, I’ve saved the best for last. Bon Appetit’s Pastry Chef of the Year in 2007, Kamel Guechida (of Joel Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon) is nominated for Best Pastry Chef in the country – and if he doesn’t win, it’ll be a sin.

That’s because each of his pastry creations is sinfully good, as are those of my two favorite nominees: Vannessa Garcia and Sarah Kosikowski (pastry chefs extraordinaire at Restaurant Charlie and Michael Mina, respectively). These two young gals are both under 30 and both nominated in the Rising Star Chef category. I could wax poetic about all of their desserts for days – but suffice it to say, Las Vegas now has some of the deepest and best kitchen talent in the world here, and the Oscars of the food world, are finally paying attention.