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Eight Twin Cities chefs and three restaurants have been named 2020 semifinalists in the James Beard Foundation awards.

The high-profile awards, widely viewed as the industry's highest honors, recognize and celebrate excellence across 23 categories.

In the Beard’s highly competitive national awards, Twin Cities chefs and restaurants made the cut in six out of 11 categories, including:

Outstanding Chef: Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. The award honors “A chef who sets high culinary standards and who has served as a positive example for other food professionals.” Kaysen, a two-time James Beard award winner, is a first-time semifinalist in this category.

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Diane Moua of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. The award honors “A pastry chef or baker who demonstrates exceptional skill, integrity and character in the preparation of desserts, pastries or breads served in a restaurant.” Moua is a 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 semifinalist in this category, and a 2018 nominee.

Best New Restaurant: Demi in Minneapolis, by chef Gavin Kaysen. The award honors “A restaurant opened in 2019 that already demonstrates excellence in cuisine and hospitality, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.”

Outstanding Restaurant: Restaurant Alma of Minneapolis. The award honors “A restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, service and operations” and has been in business for 10 or more consecutive years. Restaurant Alma, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019, is a 2012 and 2019 semifinalist in this category.

Outstanding Bar Program: Colita in Minneapolis (seen here with bar director Marco Zappia). The award honors “A restaurant or bar that demonstrates exceptional care and skill in the selection, preparation and serving of cocktails, spirits and/or beer.” The restaurant is a first-time nominee in this category.


Rising Star Chef of the Year: Rikki Giambruno of Hyacinth in St. Paul. The award honors “A chef age 30 or younger, born on or after January 1 in the year occurring thirty years prior to the award year in which such chef is to be considered for the award (e.g., January 1, 1976 for candidates to be considered in awards year 2006), who displays exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.” Giambruno (pictured, above, in the center) is a 2019 semifinalist in this category.

Best Chef: Midwest is the category that garnered the most local names, although it's the lowest number of semifinalists that the Twin Cities has garnered in many years. This year’s semifinalists include:

Steven Brown of Tilia in Minneapolis. Brown is a 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019 semifinalist, and a 2017 and 2018 nominee.

Jamie Malone of Grand Cafe in Minneapolis. Malone is a 2014 semifinalist for her work at Sea Change, and a 2018 and 2019 semifinalist – and 2019 nominee -- for Grand Cafe.

Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai in Minneapolis. Nguyen is a 2018 and 2019 semifinalist, and a 2019 nominee.

Daniel del Prado of Martina in Minneapolis. Del Prado is a 2019 semifinalist.

Hai Truong of Ngon Bistro in St. Paul. Truong is a first-time semifinalist.

The Best Chef: Midwest award is one of the foundation’s 12 regional chef honors, and it goes to chefs working in any kind of dining establishment “who set high culinary standards and also demonstrate integrity and admirable leadership skills in their respective regions.” The foundation’s Midwest region includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.
Six Twin Cities chefs are previous Best Chef: Midwest winners: Tim McKee (formerly of La Belle Vie, now at Octo Fishbar) in 2009, Alex Roberts (Restaurant Alma) in 2010, Isaac Becker (112 Eatery) in 2011, Paul Berglund (formerly of the Bachelor Farmer) in 2016, Gavin Kaysen (Spoon and Stable) in 2018 and Ann Kim (Young Joni) in 2019. Kaysen is Minnesota’s only national James Beard award-winning chef; he was named Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2008 during his tenure at Cafe Boulud in New York City.

For the complete list of 2020 semifinalists, go here.

Wednesday’s semifinalist announcement is the first installment in a months-long, multi-step process.

The semifinalist ballot is distributed among 600-plus voters, including critics, writers, editors and past chef and restaurant award winners. The process is managed by an independent accounting firm, and the top five vote-getters in each category ascend to the nominee level (in Beard-speak, that’s synonymous with “finalist”). Nominees will be announced on March 25.

A second ballot goes out to the same voting pool. The top vote-getter in the nominee round is awarded the coveted Beard medallion at the foundation’s annual awards ceremony. (There are no cash prizes).

The New York City-based foundation, named for the influential culinarian and cookbook author, established its awards program in 1990, five years after Beard’s death. This year’s black-tie gala event is scheduled for May 4 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Nominees in the foundation’s cookbook, media and design awards (there are no semifinalists) will also be announced on March 25. Winners in the cookbook and media categories will be announced at a dinner in New York City on April 24, and design winners will be announced in Chicago on May 4.

Congratulations to all the semifinalists.