James Beard 2013: Let the Games Begin

Seven of Indiana’s top culinary dogs are strutting their stuff as 2013 James Beard Foundation nominees, selected from more than 44,000 online entries in 20 categories. Last week, the foundation unveiled its “long list” (421) of the year’s semifinalists—which will be cut down to the final list of nominees on March 18 during a press brunch in Charleston, SC. (NOTE: nominations will also be announced live via the Foundation’s Twitter feed.)

The finalists are determined by an independent volunteer panel (restaurant critics, food editors, past winners, etc.) of 600-plus judges from across the country. The panel votes on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees in each category. From there, the winners will be announced on May 6 at an awards ceremony held at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Foodies in the know won’t be surprised by the list of semifinalists from Indiana: Dave Tallent is vying, yet again, for the title of Best Chef Great Lakes, along with Greg Hardesty, Regina Mehallick, and Neal Brown. Seven-month-old Bluebeard joins the long list for Best New Restaurant, and Martha Hoover enters the ring as a possible choice for Outstanding Restaurateur. In other categories, Three Floyds Brewing is in the running for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional. Here’s the complete list of industry folk who have a shot at hearing their names called.

“I’m really proud to have so many Hoosier nominees this year,” says seven-time nominatee Dave Tallent of Restaurant Tallent. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this year one of the Indiana nominees makes it to the finals.”

Martha Hoover of Cafe Patachou, Petite Chou, and Napolese is feeling the love as well. “I am proud of the awareness the foundation is bringing to the restaurants and chefs in the heartland where the bounty of the talent is matched by the bounty of the land.”

2012 was a banner year for Indiana, when our beloved StElmo Steak House was among one of the five restaurants to be honored as “America’s Classic.” Indiana has some tough competition in 2013. No surprise, our northern neighbor, Illinois, has 22 contenders. Minnesota has 16, and both Ohio and Wisconsin have eight. But next to Missouri, Iowa, and Michigan (each with three noms) and Kentucky and Kansas with only two, Indiana’s looking good.

In a few weeks, we’ll see who makes the cut and heads to Gotham City. “We’d love to make it out there to represent our place and bump shoulders with all the heroes of our industry,” says John Adams of Bluebeard. Regardless, there’s no cash gift at stake. According to the JBF site, the awards include: “Bragging rights, a handsome medal, an impressive certificate, a lot of publicity, and the satisfaction of having been recognized by your peers.” The real way to vote for our hometown culinary stars is through our wallets and forks.

At this point, we can only speculate on the next round, but there’s no denying Indiana’s recent attention from top culinary experts. At Super Bowl last year, NYC’s famous restaurateur Danny Meyer tweeted to his 24,000 followers from St. Elmo about Indiana bringing unexpected flava. Oh, and Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio swooned over The Libertine’s menu. Plus, there was that Black Market shout out in the New York Times by the food guy, Mark Bittman.

Start by planning a summer trip to Joseph Decuis this July for a multi-course feast benefitting the James Beard Foundation. We’re still full from last year’s event.