ME chefs, restaurants nominated for coveted James Beard Awards

Shuai Wang has been named a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef- JONATHAN BONCEK

Jonathan Boncek Shuai Wang has been named a semifinalist

This morning, the James Beard Foundation released its list of 2017 James Beard Award semifinalists, which are widely regarded as the most coveted culinary awards in the U.S.

Jeff Smedstad, a Chandler native who previously cooked at Los Sombreros in Scottsdale, has operated the acclaimed Elote Cafe in Sedona for 10 years.

Charleen Badman of FnB restaurant in Scottsdale earned her fourth semifinal nomination this year. The restaurant specializes in traditional Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, inspired by Smedstad's extensive travels through Mexico.

Upperline's JoAnn Clevenger is nominated for the Outstanding Restaurateur award and both Brigtsen's and Galatoire's are in the running for the Outstanding Service title.

This is the first step toward the journey to a Beard award.

Watch as Alba chef Joe Tripp, who has been named a 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards semifinalist for the Midwest region, prepares a tasting menu for customers at the East Village eatery in Des Moines.

Justin Severino of Lawrenceville's Cure and Wei Zhu of Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill are semifinalists for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.

As is tradition, the foundation announces the semifinalists in advance of the final nominees, which will be made public on March 15.

"The prestigious group of semifinalists in 21 categories represents a wide range of culinary talent, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations in ten different regions across the US, to the nation's top wine and spirits professionals, best new restaurants, rising star chefs, pastry chefs, and bakers", a news release said. The complete list of semifinalists can be found online.

Semifinalists, which were announced February 15, will be whittled down to finalists that the James Beard Foundation will announce on Wednesday, March 15.

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