How cranky should we be about this year’s James Beard Awards? Maybe not as much as usual. Maybe more. The annual recognition of the country’s top culinary talent typically snubs Las Vegas chefs and restaurants, and this year’s list of semifinalist nominations, announced last week, includes three for our city: Bardot Brasserie is up for Best New Restaurant; Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla are up as Outstanding Restaurateurs; and longtime Las Vegas chef (and Las Vegas Weekly columnist) Rick Moonen has been nominated for Best Chef: West.
Chefs with restaurants in Las Vegas like Michael Mina and José Andrés received noms but not specifically for their Vegas enterprises, so that’s it. No bakers or pastry chefs. No Outstanding Bar Program or Wine Program nominations. Moonen has been nominated as a chef before and won a Beard award in 2010 for his work on the PBS show Chefs A’Field. “It truly is an honor, and what’s really cool is Matthew Accarrino at SPQR [in San Francisco] is a semifinalist, too, and I trained him,” he says.
He’s happy to be recognized with a nomination but agrees that Las Vegas deserves more credit. “I believe Las Vegas can compete against any city in the world. Our top 10 against your top 10? Bring it on!” Moonen says. “Hopefully we’ll get the recognition we deserve going forward.”
Finalists will be announced March 15, with the awards gala set for May 2.