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Three Arizona chefs earn semifinalist spots for James Beard Awards

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LISTEN: Charleen Badman - Chef/co-owner FnB Restaurant

PHOENIX — Three Arizona chefs have been named Southwest semifinalists for James Beard Awards, the annual honors for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing and education.

Charleen Badman of FnB in Scottsdale, Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Urbano in Phoenix and Jeff Smedstad of Elote Cafe in Sedona are three of 20 contenders up for awards in each of the categories in the Beard Awards.

Badman and Esparza are no strangers to the awards, having both advanced to the semifinals in recent years. Badman has been nominated four straight years, but was still excited.

She tweeted out her appreciation for the recognition and told KTAR’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Thursday, “It’s always an honor.”

Newcomer Jeff Smedstad also shared his excitement on social media.

The consideration was open to any all chef and restaurants who applied online for the awards. The restaurant and chef committee, panelists, judges and past Beard Award winners all help in deciding the new winners.

Five finalists will be narrowed down on March 15, and the winners will be announced on May 1 at the awards Gala in Chicago, according to the James Beard Foundation website.

The James Beard Foundation created the awards in 1990 to highlight and recognize culinary artists making delicious dishes in the food and beverage industries.

There are about 12 chef and restaurant categories at the James Beard Awards.

Besides Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma and Texas also represent the Southwest region.

Arizona has had nine best chef winners, which is more than any other state, Mouth by Southwest reported.

Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes

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