James Beard Foundation announces 2011 semi-finalists: Frank Bonanno, Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, Frasca and ChoLon among them

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Last November, the James Beard Foundation summoned the public to nominate its favorite chefs, restaurants and industry professionals for the 2011 awards. And after all the self-pimping and ballot-stuffing, the poll is closed.

This morning, the foundation announced its 2011 list of semi-finalist nominees. And Colorado made a strong showing.

ChoLon was nominated for Best New Restaurant, and that puts the Southeast Asian bistro, which I favorably reviewed two weeks ago, in the company of national newcomers like French Laundry alum Corey Lee's Benu in San Francisco and highly praised Torrisi Italian Specialties in New York City.

Yasmin Lozada-Hissom got a nod in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category for her work at Olivéa (she also is the visionary behind the pastries at Duo). Lozada-Hissom has crafted stellar desserts for years, but her lemon ricotta doughnuts -- which made our list of 100 Favorite Dishes -- and her delicate chocolate tart, stuffed with salted caramel, have us convinced that she's doing some of the best work she's ever done.

Frank Bonanno landed a coveted spot in the Outstanding Restaurateur category (he was nominated last year in the same category) for his expanding empire, which now includes Bones, Green Russell, Luca D'Italia, Lou's Food Bar, Mizuna, Osteria Marco and Wednesday's Pie. He'll compete against another Denver-based restaurateur: Chipotle's Steve Ells, as well as Sam Fox, who operates NoRTH in Cherry Creek and Bloom in the FlatIron Crossing shopping center in Broomfield; Nick Pihakis, who has two Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q locations in Colorado; and Richard Sandoval, the New York-based restaurateur who operates Zengo, Tamayo and La Sandía, with outposts in Park Meadows and Northfield Stapleton.

It's probably no surprise that Bobby Stuckey and Frasca received a nomination in the Outstanding Wine Service category, but Mark Tarbell, who opened Tarbell's Southglenn just over a year ago (he also owns The Oven Pizza e Vino) also nabbed recognition, albeit for his Phoenix restaurant.

Colorado also made a strong showing in the Best Chef: Southwest category. Here are the nominees:

Bertrand Bouquin, Summit at the Broadmoor, Colorado Springs Mark Fischer, Restaurant Six89, Carbondale Ryan Hardy, Montagna at the Little Nell, Aspen Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja Kelly Liken, Restaurant Kelly Liken, Vail Alex Seidel, Fruition Restaurant

Those chefs will go head to head with Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, the restaurant Cafe Society had a love affair with last year.

So what's next? This list will get narrowed down into a smaller group of finalists, which will be announced on March 21. Winners are announced May 9 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

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