Chef/restaurateur Alex Seidel took the stage on May 7 at Chicago's Lyric Opera to accept the award for Best Chef: Southwest at the James Beard Foundation Awards. Seidel had been nominated based on his work at his second restaurant, Mercantile Dining & Provision.
In his acceptance speech, the chef thanked his wife, Melissa, noting that the couple had their first child just a couple of months before he opened his first restaurant, Fruition. He also thanked someone who couldn't be at the ceremony: "This is for him — Matt Vawter, my chef de cuisine," Seidel said. It turns out that Vawter had made the trip to Chicago but had to return to Denver for the birth of his own child.
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Seidel began his kitchen career in Michigan at the age of fourteen before working in Oregon, California, Vail and abroad. He first captured Denver's attention as executive chef at Frank Bonanno's Mizuna before going on to open Fruition in 2007. Soon after, he started Fruition Farms in Larkspur to provide his restaurant with seasonal produce and sheep's-milk cheese. Most recently, the chef launched a wholesale bakery called Füdmill with Vawter and D Bar Denver's Keegan Gerhard and Lisa Bailey.
The James Beard Foundation has been keeping an eye on Seidel over the past few years; he was nominated for the Best Chef: Southwest award (which covers Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah) in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 before nabbing the prize this year.
Seidel's dedication to building a strong Colorado food scene through his farm and restaurants has earned him nationwide recognition and has focused attention on Denver as a strong food city.
Frasca Food & Wine was also a finalist for this year's Outstanding Restaurant award, which went to Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. Among Colorado's other winners are Frasca's Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, who was named Rising Star Chef in 2006 and Best Chef: Southwest in 2008, and Jennifer Jasinski, who took top honors as Best Chef: Southwest in 2013 for Rioja.