These Arizona chefs and restaurants are James Beard Awards semifinalists. Here's the list

Bahar Anooshahr
Arizona Republic
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In 2022, Arizona chefs brought home two major James Beard Award wins: Chris Bianco won the award for Outstanding Restaurateur and Don Guerra was named Outstanding Baker in the nation.

On Wednesday morning, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2023 semifinalists and Arizona is again well represented with chefs and restaurants on the list.

What does it mean to win a James Beard Award? A James Beard Award in the food world is analogous to an Oscar in the movie world.

Here are the Arizona semifinalists for the 2023 James Beard Awards.

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Arizona's James Beard Award semifinalists for Best Chef — Southwest

Arizona has nine semifinalists in the category of Best Chef — Southwest. The Southwest region encompasses Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Best Chef — Southwest

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Arizona semifinalists in outstanding and emerging categories

The rest of the semifinalists included familiar and new faces:

Outstanding Chef

Outstanding Restaurant

Emerging Chef 

Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker

Outstanding Bakery

Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program

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How semifinalists from Bacanora and Valentine reacted

The nominees were thrilled.

"It's surreal," Crystal Kass of Valentine said. "I think I still don't believe it yet."

"It's good," said Roberto Centeno of Bacanora. "Kinda funny 'cause Rene and I always talked about both getting nominated in the future and now it happened."

Silvana Salcido Esparza: 'It feels fantastic"

Esparza wasn't alone in her excitement of being nominated.

"That's awesome. How did I get in there?" said Jenna Leurquin of JL Patisserie.

"I called Dara," said Christian Lowe, referring to Dara Wong, the owner of Shift. "I was freaking out so much that she asked if I was OK," Lowe said excitedly. "Oh my God. I'm gonna go clean an oven."

Nephi Craig of Cafe Gozhoo had no idea, he said.

Fernando Hernández of Testal said, "We are so proud that our work to show Phoenix the culture and food from northern Mexico (Chihuahua) has reached out levels that we never thought possible."

Jaren Bates: 'I'm still pinching myself'

Jaren Bates and Brett Vibber of The Table at Junipine were delighted.

"I'm still pinching myself," Bates said. "I wanna pull off the side of the road and scream out loud, but I gotta hustle back for service."

Vibber said, "It feels great. It’s definitely not the reason I cook but a byproduct of the unique approach I think we have to food and how it should be gathered and served."

When the 2023 James Beard Award finalists, winners will be announced

The James Beard Foundation will announce the 2023 finalists on March 29. The 2023 winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Chicago on June 5.

Reach the reporter at [email protected]. Follow @banooshahr on Twitter.

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