The Oscars Of The Food World

Known as the "Oscars of the food world," the James Beard Awards incite speculation months ahead of the actual awards ceremony. Outstanding Chef proves one of the most exciting categories, especially since past James Beard Award winners are part of the the vote to determine which semifinalists advance. This year, Jose Andres and Marc Vetri are two nominees to follow.

Nominated for his "minibar," Andres prepares nouveau tapas and experimental Spanish cuisine. Operating out of Washington, D.C., but with outposts in California, Andres has become one of the most influential chefs in America. With his forward-thinking approach to Spanish food, Andres seems likely to move on to the finalist round.

More under-the-radar than Andres, Marc Vetri won Best Chef Mid-Atlantic in 2005. A Food & Wine Best New Chef, Vetri serves contemporary Italian food at his eponymous restaurant. With the rise of regional Italian cooking in the United States, Vetri appears a strong contender for a finalist berth.

Keep your eyes tuned for the announcement of finalists. The competition will be fierce, and only time will tell who comes out ahead.

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