The James Beard Foundation launched its 2014 awards on Wednesday by announcing semifinalists in chef and restaurant categories.

Six Twin Citians are included in the Best Chef: Midwest category, which honors chefs who “set new or consistent standards of excellence” in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. (The Beards divide the country into 10 regions and bestow a Best Chef award in each of them).

Local semifinalists are Paul Berglund of the Bachelor Farmer, Steven Brown of Tilia, Doug Flicker of Piccolo, Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart and Jamie Malone of Sea Change, all in Minneapolis, and Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St. Paul.

Last year’s Best Chef: Midwest award went to Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City, Mo., and 2012’s award-winner was Tory Miller of L’Etoile in Madison, Wis. Minneapolis chefs won the award for three straight years: Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery in 2011, preceded by Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma in 2010 and Tim McKee of La Belle Vie in 2009.

Minneapolis made a strong showing in the Beards' national categories, including:

Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery in Outstanding Chef, which honors “a working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals.”

Steve Horton of Rustica in Outstanding Pastry Chef, which honors “a chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries or breads and who serves as a national standard-bearer for excellence.”

Restaurant Alma in Outstanding Service, which honors restaurants demonstrating “high standards of hospitality and service.”

Marvel Bar in Outstanding Bar Program, which honors a restaurant or bar that demonstrates “excellence in cocktail, spirits and/or beer service.”

Finally, Eric Seed, owner of Haus Alpenz in Edina, is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional category, which honors “a winemaker, brewer, or spirits professional who has had a significant impact on the wine and spirits industry nationwide.”

Find the complete list of semifinalists here.

The Beards began in 1990 and are frequently shorthanded to the “Oscars of the food world,” although while the Academy Awards adhere to a two-step nominee/winner process, the Beards' restaurant and chef categories follow a three-step system, recognizing semifinalists, nominees and winners.

Restaurant and chef nominees — the top five vote-getters among semifinalists in each category — will be announced on March 18 from Chicago, along with nominees in the Beards' cookbook, design and journalism categories (voters include past chef winners, along with critics and editors). Winners will take to the stage of the David H. Koch Theater in New York City’s Lincoln Center on May 5.