While the movie industry has its Academy Awards, the James Beard Foundation Awards represent the restaurant and food world's top honors. This year's crop of nominees features some rare Sacramento flavor vying with the country's top restaurants for these awards.
The Kitchen was nominated for outstanding restaurant, the equivalent of "best picture," with such fellow nominees as New York City's Blue Hill, Patina in Los Angeles and St. Helena's Terra. This may very well be the first time a Sacramento area restaurant has received this kind of accolade.
There's also a Sacramento connection with AQ of San Francisco, which received a nomination for "best new restaurant," along with Restaurant 1833 in Monterey (which the Bee reviewed in November), Altura in Seattle and others. AQ is headed by Mark Liberman, a former Folsom resident, who's emerged as a star of San Francisco's dining scene. To read more about Liberman and AQ, check Blair Anthony Robertson's recent review.
For the staff of The Kitchen, the James Beard nomination comes off a roll of recent accolades. The Kitchen was also awarded a Five Diamond rating by AAA, another of the restaurant industry's highest accolades, and inclusion in Zagat's "America's Top Restaurants 2012."
"We're on a good roll but this (James Beard nomination) really exciting," said Josh Nelson of the Selland Group, which operates The Kitchen and other local restaurants. "My wife cried when she found out. I'm proud to represent the city, proud of the staff and the family. It's not even about winning. The nod is fantastic."
This batch of semi-finalists will be condensed into a group of finalists, to be announced in March, with the winners declared in May. While the nominations process starts in the fall with an open call for considerations, a committee condenses the list to semi-finalist nominees, with a voting panel of past James Beard winners and other judges determining the finalists and overall winners.
Stay tuned, and go Sac!
Chris Macias is the Bee's food and wine writer. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias