The finalists for the 2007 James Beard Awards have been announced, and unsurprisingly the home team makes a strong showing. Chicago dominates the "Best Chef: Great Lakes" category, with nods to Grant Achatz, Carrie Nahabedian, and Bruce Sherman. And, my gosh, I wonder who will win? Alinea was nominated for best new restaurant last year, but lost out to Danny Meyer's The Modern. While I'd reflexively love to see Sherman or Nahabedian (also nominated last year) pull off some sort of Arkinesque upset--just, you know, for drama--the Achatz juggernaut has so much momentum at this point that it would take Ferran Adria himself to put on the brakes.
Other local kids made good include Rich Melman, nominated for the (second? third? ninth?) time as Outstanding Restaurateur; Jean Joho and Paul Kahan (Outstanding Chef); Frontera Grill and Spiaggia (Outstanding Restaurant); Graham Elliot Bowles (Rising Star Chef of the Year, for the second year in a row); Mindy Segal (Outstanding Pastry Chef); Bin 36 wine director Brian Duncan (Outstanding Wine Service, and Tru (Outstanding Service). And I was happy to see that, in the broadcast media category, Mari Coyne and Gaylon Emerzian were recognized for the best cheese movie of the year, Living on the Wedge. Winners will be announced May 7.