Two Minnesota chefs are among the 2011 nominees for the James Beard Foundation awards, also known as the "Oscars of the food world."


Isaac Becker, chef/co-owner of 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis, received his fourth consecutive nomination for Best Chef: Midwest.



Lenny Russo, chef/co-owner of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St. Paul, is also a nominee in the category; he was a 2010 nominee, too.


Other chefs in the category include Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City, Mo.; this year’s nomination is his fifth, following nominations in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Two first-time nominees hail from Wisconsin: Tory Miller, chef/co-owner of L’Etoile in Madison, and Justin Aprahamian, chef of Sanford in Milwaukee.

The Best Chef: Midwest award, one of 10 regional chef awards bestowed annually by the foundation, honors chefs who “have set new or consistent standards of excellence” in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

As always, this year's five nominees were culled from a previously announced crop of 20 semifinalists. (Full disclosure: I serve on a James Beard Foundation committee).

Two Minneapolis chefs -- Tim McKee of La Belle Vie, and Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma -- are the most recent Best Chef: Midwest winners. McKee won in 2009, and Roberts won in 2010.

The foundation made the announcement on Monday afternoon via Twitter, from an event at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore. The winner will be announced at the foundation’s annual gala awards ceremony on May 9 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

Three Minnesota journalists are also Beard nominees. Amy Thielen, writing in Taste (on beans, mortar and pestle, and walleye)  is one of three nominees in the “Cooking with recipes” category. Minnesota Monthly’s Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a nominee in the “Craig Claiborne” category, which recognizes distinguished restaurant criticism. And “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern is up for two awards, in the “Multimedia food feature” category, and in the “Television program, on location” category.”

Journalism winners will be announced May 6 in New York City.