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Beard Award Nominees Announced, Portland Represents

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Image of Gabe Rucker courtesy <a href="http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2009/10/restaurants-worth-the-money-pacific-northwest">Gourmet</a>
Image of Gabe Rucker courtesy Gourmet

The 2010 James Beard Award Restaurant and Chef Semifinalists were announced just this morning, and hometown represents, y'all. Covering nineteen categories across ten regions, the finalists will be announced on March 22nd, with winners coming live on May 3rd. What this means, practically, is about another month of backslapping and high-fiving with maybe a little back-room freezer-melting and purveyor-bribing. Let's see who's on the list, and what that might mean.

Portland is skipped for the Outstanding Restaurateurs, Outstanding Chef, and Outstanding Restaurant categories, [UPDATE: Except it isn't, as Higgins was nominated and with apologies for the editorial wheel-sleeping oversight] but our little hamlet kicks into full gear with the introduction of Matt Lightner of Castagna and Gabe Rucker, above, of Le Pigeon as Rising Star Chef of the Year nominees. Each of them does something totally different--Lightner's into Keller-style silent kitchen rye seed jazz while Rucker's more of a grilled beef heart and foie gras profiteroles kind of guy--so it's a sign of how wide-ranging the nominations really are, superseding style and ethos to focus on just well-executed dinner.

Ping is nominated for Best New Restaurant, bringing Andy Ricker into the fray, but Outstanding Pastry Chef forgot about Fenouil's Kristen D. Murray. For such Oregon wine country, PDX misses the boat on Wine Service, although Stephen R. McCarthy of Clear Distillery gets a nod for Clear Creek Distillery. Everyone knows Portland service sucks, so no surprises at being left off of that list, and now let's get regional.

Of the twenty chefs nominated for the northwest, seven are from here, and include the duh factors: Naomi Pomeroy of Killingsworth's Beast, possible double-winner Gabe Rucker of Burnside's French-inflected Le Pigeon, Andy Ricker of southeast's Thai joint Pok Pok (and Ping, though that doesn't get mentioned here), John Gorham of northeast tapas restaurant Toro Bravo, and Cathy Whims of southeast Italian place Nostrana. Surprise factor is Oswaldo Bibiano, who's been quietly cooking up what's been said to be baller Mexican food up at 30th & Killingsworth's Autentica, and--and this is an UPDATE--Jenn Louis from Lincoln.

Calls for response have gone out, but in the meantime, leave your speculations as to winners, losers, and plausible debacles in the comments.


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