Food News

Colorado's Thirteen James Beard Chef and Restaurant Awards Semi-Finalists

Chef Manny Barella has been nominated as a semifinalist in the Emerging Chef category.
Chef Manny Barella has been nominated as a semifinalist in the Emerging Chef category. Bellota
After a two-year hiatus, the James Beard Awards are back. In February 2020, Colorado scored big when the semi-finalists were announced, but the pandemic put the kibosh on the awards that year, as well as in 2021.

At the time, the Foundation noted that the decision came “as restaurants continue to suffer the grave negative effects of COVID-19, and as substantial and sustained upheaval in the community has created an environment in which the Foundation believes the assignment of Awards will do little to further the industry in its current uphill battle.”

The 2022 award semi-finalist announcement comes after changes in policies and procedures following an audit to “ensure a more transparent and equitable process for the future," the James Beard Foundation said in a June 2021 announcement.

Colorado's thirteen 2022 semi-finalists include both new and familiar names. In the Best Chef, Mountain category, Caroline Glover of Annette, Dana Rodriguez of Work & Class and Luis Young of the Penrose Room in Colorado Springs have all gotten a second chance after being nominated in 2020.

The Best Chef, Mountain semi-finalists roster also includes Jose Avila for his Sunday-only El Borrego Negro series, in which he serves up sheep barbacoa in the style of Hidalgo, a state near Mexico. Avila also opened La Diabla Pozole y Mexcal last year, which landed on our list of the best new restaurants of 2021.

Also making that list: Mawa McQueen, the chef and owner behind Aspen's only Black-owned restaurants; Cody Cheetham of Tavernetta; and Eric Skokan of Black Cat Farm Table Bistro in Boulder.

Colorado semi-finalists in other categories include Manny Barella of Bellota for Emerging Chef. Barella not only spearheaded the Acorn team's transition to Bellota, a Mexican concept, in late 2020, but he's been a central part of the newly established Hispanic Chefs Association.

This year's winners will be celebrated at an awards ceremony in Chicago on June 13.

Here's the complete list of 2022 Colorado James Beard Award semi-finalists:

click to enlarge Dana Rodriguez is on a roll with a James Beard nomination and a new role as executive chef for Casa Bonita. - EVAN SEMON
Dana Rodriguez is on a roll with a James Beard nomination and a new role as executive chef for Casa Bonita.
Evan Semon
Best Chef, Mountain
Jose Avila, El Borrego Negro, Denver
Cody Cheetham, Tavernetta, Denver
Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, CO
Dana Rodriguez, Work & Class, Denver
Eric Skokan, Black Cat Farm Table Bistro, Boulder, CO
Luis Young, Penrose Room, Colorado Springs, CO
Mawa McQueen, Mawa's Kitchen, Aspen, CO

Outstanding Restaurateur
Edwin Zoe, Zoe Ma Ma and Chimera Ramen, Boulder and Denver, CO

Emerging Chef
Manuel "Manny" Barella, Bellota, Denver

Outstanding Hospitality
Spuntino, Denver

Outstanding Wine Program
The Little Nell, Aspen, CO

Outstanding Chef
Josh Niernberg, Bin 707 Foodbar, Grand Junction

Best New Restaurant
Casian Seafood, Lafayette, CO
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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