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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three St. Louis Chefs and a Sommelier Are James Beard Award Semifinalists [Updated]

Posted By on Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM

The James Beard Foundation this morning announced the semifinalists for its annual awards (link PDF). Gerard Craft of Niche, Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Café and Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus are among the semifinalists in the category "Best Chef: Midwest."

In addition, Glenn Bardgett, the wine director at Annie Gunn's, is a semifinalist in the category "Outstanding Wine Service," which covers restaurants nationwide.

The five finalists in each category will be announced on Monday, March 21, and the winners will be revealed at a gala in New York City in May.

Reaction from some of the semifinalists after the jump.

Gerard Craft of Niche was a finalist in the "Best Chef: Midwest" category in 2009 and 2010. Despite his past success, he says this year's nomination is "very cool."

"It's so exciting to five Missouri chefs in the [semifinalist] list," he says, including Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City and Jonathan Justus of Justus Drugstore in Smithville with the three St. Louis semifinalists.

Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Café says his inclusion "is awesome beyond belief. We're really, really excited."

Nashan, an enthusiastic booster of the local food scene, is likewise thrilled to see the other area chefs on the semifinalist list. "We're glad to be part of it," he says. "All my guys here are really proud."

For Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus, this is the second honor of the week. On Tuesday, he was named as one of 100 candidates to be voted "The People's Best New Chef" by readers of Food & Wine magazine and CNN's Eatocracy food blog, along with Josh Galliano of Monarch and Anthony Devoti of Five Bistro.

When Gut Check reached Willmann on Tuesday about the "People's Best New Chef" news, he told us that he was excited. When we called back today, he said, "I'm just shocked right now."

Despite all the acclaim that he has received this week, you will forgive Willmann if that isn't foremost on his mind at the moment. You see, this weekend, Willmann and his fiancée Jessica Hanzlick will be married.

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