James Beard Awards Best Chef Category

When the James Beard Foundation announced its 2011 semifinalists for the Restaurant and Chef Awards, the entire nation erupted in excitement. Different geographic regions have separate award categories for Best Chef. From the Great Lakes to the Southwest, each region features a closely fought contest for the coveted award. In the Great Lakes region, look for Michael Carlson's name amongst the finalists. The chef and proprietor of Schwa, Carlson rented a small Chicago storefront in 2005 and started his now renowned restaurant. Creative and innovative, Carlson seems like a strong contender in one of the Beard's toughest categories. For the Midwest, Gerard Craft, chef at St. Louis' Niche, faces tough competition from his Kansas City counterpart, Colby Garrelts of Bluestem.

New York City is the only city that has its own category, whereas most chefs are rated within their region.  Names to watch include April Bloomfield, chef at The Spotted Pig, Wylie Dufresne, chef at wd~50, Mark Ladner of Del Posto, and perennial favorite Michael White of Marea.

Battles will be fought in each region to advance to the next round. As the culinary world continues to expand, the competition for James Beard recognition will only increase.

Check out the James Beard Foundation's website for more information.