Two Locals Finalists for James Beard “Best Chef” Award

Jack Riebel, chef and co-owner of Butcher & the Boar, and Michelle Gayer, chef and owner of the Salty Tart, are among five individuals vying for the 2013 “Best Chef” in the Midwest award.

The James Beard Foundation on Monday revealed nominees in its restaurant and chef award categories—and two local chefs are among five in the running for the Midwest region’s “Best Chef” distinction.

They are Jack Riebel, chef and co-owner of Butcher & the Boar in downtown Minneapolis, and Michelle Gayer, chef and owner of the Salty Tart, located at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.

The James Beard awards are akin to the Oscars of the food world. Last month, the James Beard Foundation announced 20 “Best Chef” semifinalists within the Midwest region. In addition to Riebel and Gayer, that list featured a number of other Twin Cities metro area chefs: Steven Brown of Tilia, Mike DeCamp of La Belle Vie, Doug Flicker of Piccolo, Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market, Sameh Wadi of Saffron Restaurant & Lounge, and James Winberg, Mike Brown, and Bob Gerken of Travail Kitchen and Amusements.

The just-announced “nominees” essentially constitute a narrowed list of finalists.

Riebel opened Butcher & the Boar last March, and the nomination is his first. Gayer, however, was nominated for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in both 2010 (when she was at the Salty Tart) and 2002 (when she worked at a Chicago restaurant).

The other three chefs nominated in the Midwest category are Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee, Gerard Craft of Niche in St. Louis, and Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City, Missouri.

For the “Best Chef” awards, the James Beard Foundation names a winner in each of 10 regions. The Midwest region includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas.

Previous “Best Chef” in the Midwest winners include Tim McKee of La Belle Vie, Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma, and Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery.

In addition to there being local “Best Chef” nominees, some Twin Cities media were also nominated in various categories. Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, who writes for Twin Cities Business’ sister publication Mpls.St.Paul, was nominated for the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing award for “The Cheese Artist,” a profile of cheesemaker Mary Falk.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based producers Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine were nominated in the “Video Webcast, On Location” category for their “The Perennial Plate: Real World Food Tour,” an online weekly documentary series dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating.

And locally based producers Andrew Zimmern and Colleen Needles Steward were nominated in the “Television Program, On Location” category for “Bizarre Foods,” which airs on the Travel Channel. (To learn more about Zimmern and how he’s morphing his hit cable TV show into a diversified, branded network of businesses, read Twin Cities Business’ February cover story by clicking here.)

Last, Minneapolis restaurant Kramarczuk’s was named one of “America’s Classics,” an award given to “regional establishments, often family-owned, that are treasured for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal.” Those awards were announced in late February.