A James Beard Award semifinalist in our midst

Photo: The James Beard Foundation

Exciting news! Melissa Close-Hart, executive chef at Palladio Restaurant at Barboursville Vineyards is a semifinalist for the 2011 James Beard Awards, Best Chef-Mid Atlantic category.

She has been with the Italian enterprise since 2000. Barboursville Vineyards is owned by the Zonin family, whose Italian estates cover the Piedmont region, Veneto, Friuly and Tuscany.

(Here is a profile of Melissa from C-VILLE Weekly).

Other notables:

*José Andrés, for minibar by José Andrés, Washington, D.C.  – Outstanding Chef. He is a favorite of mine (although I have never tried his dishes). Must be his accent (I have one, too), the love for his country, and his Made in Spain TV series that was broadcast on public television.

*Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill, Atlanta – Rising Star Chef. Two words: Top Chef. Who could resist that beard? And the pig tattooed on his arm? And you’ve got to love someone who would splurge on olive oil, as he told iVillage FOOD.

*April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig, NYC – Best Chef, New York City. Gotta love a girl who would sacrifice her body for food (and impressed Mario Batali).

*Marco Canora, Hearth, NYC – Best Chef, New York City. Thanks to The Next Iron Chef, Canora’s genius was highlighted in between a meltdown and a perfect pasta dish.

*Girl & the Goat in Chicago – Stephanie Izard‘s restaurant, the only female to have won Top Chef – for Best New Restaurant. Coolest logo/concept ever!

Yes, I am obsessed with Top Chef. And yes, I’ll keep watching even without Fabio. Sad, but I’ll keep watching in the hopes that either Carla or Richard will score big.

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