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Delayed James Beard Award Announcement Offers Bright Spot

Chef Dana Rodriguez celebrates a takeout order but could soon be celebrating a Best Chef: Mountain award from the James Beard Foundation.
Chef Dana Rodriguez celebrates a takeout order but could soon be celebrating a Best Chef: Mountain award from the James Beard Foundation.
Evan Semón

Colorado restaurants got some bad news yesterday in the form of an announcement from Governor Jared Polis that they won't be able to reopen until late May at the earliest. While the delay certainly won't make things any easier for restaurants struggling to stay afloat with takeout and delivery sales, it at least took away some of the ambiguity surrounding the slow return to business.

But good news came, too: The James Beard Foundation announced its final nominees for chef, restaurant and media awards that will be given later this year (May 27 for media awards and September 25 for chefs and restaurants). Colorado scored bigger than it has in past years, thanks to some great chefs and owners doing their part to lift the state's culinary scene.

The original list of semi-finalists came out on February 26, with eighteen of Colorado's finest making the list in multiple categories, including Best Chef: Mountain (which also covers Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming), Outstanding Restaurant, Best New Restaurant, Rising Star Chef, Outstanding Restaurateur and others. Now that the JBF has whittled it down to the final list before the winners are chosen, Colorado still has seven contenders.

In the Best Chef: Mountain category, Caroline Glover of Annette, Dana Rodriguez of Super Mega Bien, Kelly Whitaker of The Wolf's Tailor and Carrie Baird of Bar Dough (who has since moved on to open Rose's Classic American) made the cut. And for Outstanding Restaurant, which honors establishments open for at least ten years, Frasca Food and Wine is representing Colorado. Founders Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have been honored with several James Beard Awards in past years, including Outstanding Service last year, Wine Program in 2013, and Best Chef: Southwest for Mackinnon-Patterson in 2008 — but this would be their first for Outstanding Restaurant should they win.

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Colorado spirits were also recognized, as Todd and Scott Leopold of Leopold Bros. earned a place on the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer list.

Earlier this year, the foundation also selected El Taco de Mexico as one of six restaurants nationwide to earn an America's Classics award.

The awards timing this year was thrown off by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the James Beard Foundation shifted its attention from celebrating culinary achievements to helping raise money to keep restaurants alive. The plan was initially to announce these nominees in March and then have the annual gala awards celebration yesterday in Chicago, but a gathering of that magnitude became out of the question as coronavirus spread quickly through the U.S. Restaurants and other businesses are far from out of the woods, so we hope all nominees and the winners selected will still be open come September to enjoy the victory.

For a complete rundown of the nominees in all categories across the country, see the 2020 James Beard Award Nominees list.

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