Four Twin Cities chefs, two restaurants and one restaurateur have been named 2022 semifinalists in the James Beard Foundation awards.

The high-profile awards, widely viewed as the industry's highest honors, recognize and celebrate excellence in restaurants, cookbooks and journalism. The restaurant awards fall into 10 national categories and 12 regional categories.

In the highly competitive national awards, Minnesota has three semifinalists. The regional Best Chef: Midwest category garnered the most local names, although it's the lowest showing for Twin Cities culinary talent in recent years.

The awards are returning after a two-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic and an internal reckoning at the foundation over diversity. During that time, the foundation "underwent a full audit of its policies and procedures, continuing the work to remove bias, increase transparency and accessibility, and making the program more aligned with the Foundation's mission and values," according to a statement.

Minnesotans recognized among the 2022 semifinalists include:

Outstanding Restaurateur: Kim Bartmann, Bartmann Group: The award recognizes a restaurateur who has been in the business at least five years, and "who uses their establishment(s) as a vehicle for building community, demonstrates creativity in entrepreneurship, integrity in restaurant operations, and is making efforts to create a sustainable work culture."

Bartmann, previously a semifinalist in this category in 2013 and 2015, owns Barbette, Trapeze, Red Stag Supper Club, Book Club, Tiny Diner, Bread & Pickle and Pat's Tap, all in Minneapolis. The restaurateur came under fire in 2020 after employees said Bartmann had laid off workers during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns without giving them their final paychecks. The office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison launched an investigation in 2020, and found Bartmann also had failed to compensate workers for overtime hours, in addition to the missed payroll. The Bartmann Group reached a settlement for more than $230,000 in back wages.

The Best New Restaurant category honors a restaurant that "opened in 2020 or 2021 that already demonstrates excellence in cuisine and hospitality and seems likely to make a significant impact in years to come." In Minnesota, those are:

Owamni by the Sioux Chef opened in 2021 to national acclaim and was named the Star Tribune's Restaurant of the Year.

Chef Yia Vang's Union Hmong Kitchen began as a pop-up and a food trailer, getting a permanent home in late 2021 at Graze North Loop food hall.

The Best Chef: Midwest category is one of 12 regional chef awards. The Beard's Midwest region includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. The award goes to chefs in any kind of dining establishment "who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions." The four Minnesota semifinalists are:

Jorge Guzmán, Petite León: This is the third time Guzmán has been a semifinalist, and first in his current home at Petite León, which opened in Minneapolis mid-pandemic. He was previously recognized in 2016 and 2017, when he was the chef for Brewer's Table at Surly Brewing Co.

Sean Sherman, Owamni: Sherman has already won two James Beard Awards, taking home the honor in 2018 for his cookbook "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen" and a Leadership Award in 2019.

Erik Skaar, Vann: This is Skaar's first time being recognized by the James Beard Foundation for his work helming the seafood-centric Vann in Spring Park.

Yia Vang, Union Hmong Kitchen: Vang's Hmong cuisine and compelling storytelling has made him one of the best known chefs in the Twin Cities with his pop-up turned stand Union Hmong Kitchen and the forthcoming Vinai, plus his TPT TV show "Relish." This is his first recognition from the James Beard Foundation.

The New York City-based foundation, named for the influential culinarian and cookbook author, established its awards program in 1990.

Finalists will be announced March 16, and winners will be honored at a gala event scheduled for June 13 at Chicago's Civic Opera House.

Six Twin Cities chefs are previous Best Chef: Midwest winners: Tim McKee (formerly of La Belle Vie) in 2009, Alex Roberts (Restaurant Alma) in 2010, Isaac Becker (112 Eatery) in 2011, Paul Berglund (formerly of the Bachelor Farmer) in 2016, Gavin Kaysen (Spoon and Stable) in 2018 and Ann Kim (Young Joni) in 2019. Kaysen is Minnesota's only national James Beard award-winning chef; he was named Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2008 during his tenure at Cafe Boulud in New York City.