by Ian Froeb
This evening the James Beard Foundation will announce the winners of its annual Restaurant and Chef Awards at a gala event in New York City. For the fourth time in the past five years, Gerard Craft of Niche (7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-773-7755), et al., is one of five finalists in the "Best Chef: Midwest" category.
Is this the year that St. Louis' most acclaimed chef brings home the award?
Craft's fellow "Best Chef: Midwest" nominees are Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City; Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Jack Riebel of the Butcher & the Boar in Minneapolis.
Like Craft, Aprahamian and Garrelts have been finalists for this award in the past. Riebel is a first-time nominee. Gayer is a first-time nominee in this category, but has been a finalist in the "Outstanding Pastry Chef" category.
The regional chef awards are difficult to predict, but a few factors would seem to be working in Craft's favor. First, he has been a finalist several times previously. Second, in recent years chefs from Wisconsin and Minnesota have won the award.
Of course, those same factors might also benefit Garrelts, and there is no "rule" about spreading the award around the eligible states. Or could the two Missouri finalists cancel each other out?
We'll know the answer in a few hours. The award ceremony begins at 5 p.m. CDT. You can watch a live stream of the ceremony on the James Beard Foundation website, and Gut Check will have the result as soon as it is announced.