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Duo and Olivéa pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom tapped to bake at the James Beard Foundation awards gala

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The James Beard Foundation awards gala, a glitzy, high-falutin' soiree that honors the best chefs, pastry kings and queens, restaurateurs, restaurants and wine directors in the country, takes place on May 9, 2011, at the Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York. And the culinary blowout, hosted by star chefs Traci Des Jardins, Ming Tsia and Tom Colicchio, includes one of our own: Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, the pastry chef of Duo and Olivéa -- and, herself, a 2011 James Beard semifinalist in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category.

According to the Beard Foundation, this year's theme, "The Ultimate Melting Pot," is "a tribute to the nation's wonderfully diverse food culture, a mosaic of influences from many lands," and since Lozada-Hissom hails from Venezuela and grew up in Peru, it's no surprise that her dessert is inspired, she says, from "ingredients that are very present in my memories growing up in both of those countries."

And while we can't divulge what, exactly, Lozada-Hissom is bringing to the table, it does involve kiwicha (also known as amaranth), an ancient grain the Incas feasted on five hundred years ago. "It's crisp, very flavorful and one the most nutritious grains in the world," she notes.

Lozada-Hissom will be in good company when she cooks, joining chefs Saipin Chutima (Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas); Rachel Tang (Joule, Seattle); Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Philadelphia); and Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland) among others. "I'm very excited and grateful to be part of such a special event, and I can't wait to share my passion for food with other chefs who, like me, draw their inspiration for cooking from multicultural influences and backgrounds," says Denver's best pastry chef.

Several other Colorado-based restaurants and food and wine industry marvels, including Lon Symensma, Frank Bonanno, Steve Ells, Bobby Stuckey, Jennifer Jasinski, Alex Seidel and Kelly Liken, are also James Beard semifinalists. The finalist nominations will be announced live, on March 21, via the James Beard Foundation's Twitter page at twitter.com/beardfoundation.

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