Hoosiers Among James Beard Award Semifinalists

Chris Ponte inside his latest restaurant project On Swann

The Beard Awards are the culinary world's equivalent of the Oscars, and winning an award - or even being nominated - can mean more customers for a restaurant and an upward trajectory for a chef. He was also named to the list in 2015.

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

Charleston was recognized for the work of Chef Cindy Wolf and nominated for its wine program, which is a national award that Charleston has been recognized for in the past. The restaurant specializes in traditional Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, inspired by Smedstad's extensive travels through Mexico.

Also, one Milwaukee restaurant is one of the semifinalists for the Outstanding Restaurateurs award.

This is the first step toward the journey to a Beard award. Another familiar Arizona name is Sam Fox, who has been nominated for "Outstanding Restaurateur".

The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced its Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists for this year's 27th annual James Beard Foundation Awards, and one Lawrence baker is on the list.

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

Head over to the James Beard website to see the full list of this year's semifinalists.

Also recognized as a semifinalist in this category past year, Bluestem received a major renovation in 2014.It continues to receive kudos as "a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service", with executive chef Andrew Longres recently promoted to run the kitchen. The announcements are broadcast online via the Foundation's Facebook Live feed.

Winners will be announced at the 2017 James Beard Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 1.

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