This morning, the James Beard Foundation announced the 2016 restaurant and chef award semifinalists. Both the St. Louis and Kansas City areas were well-represented: 

Best Chef: Great Lakes

  • Eric Heath, Cleveland-Heath, Edwardsville, Illinois

Best Chef: Midwest

  • Mike Randolph, Público, University City, Missouri
  • Jonathan Justus, Justus Drugstore, Smithville, Missouri 
  • Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Café, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Ben Poremba, Elaia, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Patrick Ryan, Port Fonda, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Kevin Willmann, Farmhaus, St. Louis, Missouri

Best New Restaurant

  • Público, University City, Missouri

Outstanding Service

  • Stone Soup Cottage, Cottleville, Missouri

Outstanding Restaurant

  • Bluestem, Kansas City, Missouri

Outstanding Bar Program

  • The Side Project Cellar, Maplewood, Missouri

It's the first nomination for chef Randolph and Público, which opened last March in the Delmar Loop to rave reviews – many local publications designated the Latin gastropub as the year's best new restaurant in St. Louis.

Other first time-nominees include Side Project Cellar, the Maplewood tasting room for Cory King's acclaimed Side Project Brewing. King's wife, Karen, runs the Cellar, which was recognized for demonstrating "excellence in cocktail, spirits and/or beer service." 

Carl and Nancy McConnell's Stone Soup Cottage is nominated for "outstanding service" for the first time. The category recognizes "a restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service."

Next, judges from across the country will review the list and narrow it down to a final list of nominees, which will be announced in San Francisco on Tue., March 15. You can view the full list of chef and restaurant nominees here

Winners will be announced at the 2016 James Beard Awards Gala, hosted by Carla Hall, at Lyric Opera of Chicago on Mon., May 2.