Like the Oscars of the food world, the James Beard Awards generate media hype and provoke intense speculation. On May 6th and 9th, food-lovers, journalists, and chefs will watch as the winners are announced. Five established chefs who "set national industry standards" and serve "as an inspiration to other food professionals" fight it out in the Outstanding Chef category. 1. Jose Andres: An ambassador of Spanish cuisine in America, Andres is probably best known for minibar, his tiny, avant-garde restaurant attached to Cafe Atlantico. One of Washington D.C.'s toughest reservations, minibar is a monument to innovative Spanish food.
2. Gary Danko: Previously named Best Chef-California, Gary Danko cooks regional American food with Mediterranean and Asian influences. His most recent restaurant, the eponymous "Gary Danko," won Best New Restaurant in 2000.
3. Suzanne Goin: At Lucques in Los Angeles, Suzanne Goin has made a name for herself as one of the country's preeminent chefs. Her food celebrates local produce and American cookery.
4. Paul Kahan: Chef at Blackbird, avec, and most recently, The Publican, Paul Kahan grew up helping out at his father's Chicago delicatessen. Today, Kahan is a living Chicago culinary legend. He was nominated for Outstanding Chef in 2007, so this might be his year.
5. Charles Phan: Born in Vietnam of Chinese descent, Charles Phan spent his childhood in Vietnam, Guam, and San Francisco. His restaurant The Slanted Door serves globally-inspired food with definite Asian inspirations.
Who do you think should win Outstanding Chef this year? For more on the James Beard Awards http://marcussamuelsson.com/news/the-james-beard-awards click here.