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February 13, 2009 at 12:30 PM

2009 James Beard Award restaurant/chef semifinalists announced

The James Beard Foundation today announced a list of semifinalists for the 2009 James Beard Awards in 19 restaurant and chef categories: the first cut before the final five nominees get the public nod March 23. Winners will be feted at the annual awards ceremony May 4 in NYC and baring unforeseen catastrophe, I’ll be there as I was last year screaming “Tom Douglas!” during the ceremony at Avery Fisher Hall (No, wait! That’s Thierry Rautureau’s job):

That’s “The Chef in the Hat” at the 2008 awards gala, still hoarse from screaming “Tom Douglas!” seconds before Tom lost-out to Joe and Mario:

But Tom D is one of 20 semifinalists for “Outstanding Restaurateur” award again this year, and here’s hoping Thierry will have another chance to give a shout-out to his radio-show sidekick, seen on the streets of New York last spring after an exhausting shopping spree:

So, who else from our ‘hood got the 2009 semifinalist-nod?

Among the names on the “Best Chef: Northwest” list again this year are 2008 finalists Maria Hines (Tilth), Ethan Stowell (Union, et al) and Jason Wilson (Crush), seen below at the 2008 awards. They graciously conceded to winner Holly Smith (Cafe Juanita):

Tilth’s Maria Hines (center), flanked by pastry-chef Sue McCown (left) and PR-maven Michi Suzuki

Ethan Stowell, with his wife and business partner, Angela

Jason Wilson, with his wife and business partner, Nicole

This year’s “Best Chef: Northwest” contenders also include:

Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez (Harvest Vine, Txori), hamming it up with Wilson at the University District Farmers Market last summer

Kevin Davis (Steelhead Diner), posing with one of the many reasons he should be a contender

Mark Fuller, smiling for my camera at Spring Hill in West Seattle, and viewed on the job, below:

Sitka & Spruce’s own Matt Dillon, flipping the bird at The Corson Building above, and talking cooking-philosophy with me in his Georgetown kitchen, below:

Renee Erickson, at her charming Boat Street Cafe

Scott Staples, of Restaurant Zoe, taking a lunch break at his Capitol Hill pub, Quinn’s

Taichi Kitamura, who raises the sushi (bar) at Fremont’s Chiso and Chiso Kappo

“Rising Star Chef of the Year” is an award given to a chef age 30 or younger who “displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.” This year the semifinalists include two Northwest up-and-comers. Rachel Yang of Joule, in Wallingford (who showed me exactly why she’s on this list when I sat at her kitchen counter just last night enjoying a whole grilled mackerel with smoked tomato puttanesca and daikon salad). Here she is in action, alongside her husband Seif Chirchi, explaining how she does what she does:

Rachel’s got tough competition from Portland’s Gabriel Rucker from Le Pigeon, seen below checking out of the Empress Hotel following last year’s award ceremonies, where he was a “Rising Star” finalist:

Outstanding Pastry Chef“-semifinalist James Miller (below) deservedly made the long-list this year. You know him as the golden hands behind Ballard’s Cafe Besalu. Thanks to my pal Houston Chronicle food blogger Alison Cook, who took this photo of James in his element:

And (yes!), the 2009 “Outstanding Chef” category lists Brasa’s Tamara Murphy, who already has a “Best Chef: Northwest” win to her credit

Here’s Tamara at her latest venture, the re-envisioned Elliott Bay Cafe in Pioneer Square:

For “Outstanding Service: the Canlis team, seen below last year after conceding to St. Helena’s Terra Restaurant. Canlis is also in the running for “Outstanding Wine Service” — the only Northwest contender to make the semi-finals:

From left: Mark Canlis, David Kim (director of service), Brian Canlis, Kellie Sholdt (private dining manager)

Also up for “Outstanding Service” — Holly Smith’s sassy staff at Cafe Juanita, which could earn the Divine Ms. Smith another crack at the stage, to pick up one of these prized medallions:

Seattle has two contenders In the “Best New Restaurant” category: Poppy and Spinasse.

Poppy’s chef/owner Jerry Traunfeld, seen above, and below. Jerry’s a past winner of the “Best Chef: Northwest” award for his outstanding (and longstanding) work at The Herbfarm

Justin Niedermeyer, rolling his own on Capitol Hill above, and below

Congrats to all! So, what say you, Eaters? Comments? Boo-rahs?

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