Awards and Honors

James Beard Award Finalists Announced, Colorado Sweeps the Best Chef, Mountain Category

Dana Rodriguez is on a roll with a James Beard nomination and a new role as executive chef for Casa Bonita.
Dana Rodriguez is on a roll with a James Beard nomination and a new role as executive chef for Casa Bonita. Evan Semon
On March 16, the back-after-a-two-year-hiatus James Beard Awards announced the 2022 chef and restaurant finalists — and Colorado talent nabbed all five of the nominations in the Best Chef, Mountain category (which also includes Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming). The group includes both past nominees and new names.

Caroline Glover, chef/owner of Annette at Stanley Marketplace, was named a semi-finalist in the category (formerly called Best Chef, Southwest) in 2018 and 2019, and was a nominee in 2020 — the first year the awards were canceled because of the pandemic. She's now a full-fledged finalist.

Dana Rodriguez, a three-time semi-finalist — in 2015, 2016 and 2018 — as well as a finalist in 2020, nabbed a nomination once again for her first restaurant, Work & Class. Rodriguez also operates Super Mega Bien at the Ramble Hotel in RiNo, opened Cantina Loca in January, and is the executive chef of Casa Bonita 2.0, which is expected to open later this year under new owners Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame.

Eric Skokan of Black Cat Farm Bistro in Boulder was nominated in the Best Chef, Southwest category in 2017 and has now made the list of finalists. In 2020, the Boulder community rallied around the Skokan family following the tragic death of their seventeen-year-old son, who was killed in a car accident just outside their home. 
click to enlarge Caroline Glover of Annette has once again been nominated in the Best Chef, Mountain category. - FROM THE HIP PHOTO
Caroline Glover of Annette has once again been nominated in the Best Chef, Mountain category.
From the Hip Photo
Jose Avila is a first-time nominee for his Sunday-only El Borrego Negro pop-ups, at which he cooks sheep barbacoa in the style of Hidalgo, a state near Mexico City. In 2021, Avila opened La Diabla, Colorado's first pozolaria.

Cody Cheetham of Tavernetta is a first-time nominee as well. Cheetham is originally from Montana and joined the Frasca Hospitality Group in 2016. He become chef de cuisine at Tavernetta in 2019.

Colorado only has one finalist in a national category: the Little Nell in Aspen, for Outstanding Wine Program, an award it's won three times before, in 2000, 2014 and 2018.

Thirteen Colorado chefs and restaurants were announced as semi-finalists in late February, though one was removed from the list shortly after: Luis Young of the Penrose Room at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. The restaurant remains temporarily closed (it is expected to reopen this summer), which violates the James Beard Foundation eligibility rule that states that “only candidates who are active and whose business(es) are open will be considered.”

This year's winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Chicago on June 13.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin