SALT LAKE CITY — You don’t have to leave Utah to find a great meal.
The James Beard Foundation announced its 2020 semifinalists Wednesday, and chefs at five Utah restaurants have made the cut for “best chef” in the mountain region, which also includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
The semifinalists from Utah are:
- Briar Handly, Handle in Park City
- Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm in Boulder, Garfield County
- Peggi Ince-Whiting, Kyoto Japanese Restaurant in Salt Lake City
- Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, Laziz Kitchen in Salt Lake City
- Nick Fahs, David Barboza and Mike Blocher, Table X in Salt Lake City
The awards have celebrated the top culinary figures — such as chefs, restaurateurs and journalists – in America since 1990. In an effort to better highlight a growing culinary scene, the organization announced in September that it had created new regions to allow restaurants in lesser-known culinary areas. Utah moved from the southwest region to the mountain region during the change, which freed it from competing with states like Arizona and Texas.
California, Texas and New York are the only states judged separately from regions.
As a result of the changes, a record number of Utah chefs have been recognized.
This is the fourth consecutive year Castle and Spalder have been named a semifinalist for the award. Their previous nominations came in 2017, 2018 and 2019, when Utah was in the southwest category. The restaurant has routinely been a favorite since opening in 2000, including features in everything from The New Yorker to Travel & Leisure magazine.
The other restaurants nominated have had their own spotlight over the years. Handle has been featured by several outlets, including Forbes and the Travel Channel. Ince-Whiting has been featured in Bon Appetite and Fine Cooking magazines. And Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins” featured Laziz Kitchen last year.
The finalists of the 2020 Beard Awards will be announced on March 25, and winners will be announced in Chicago on May 4.