The James Beard Foundation (JBF) annually awards a wide range of talent in the food and beverage industry in the USA including chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook authors, food journalists, restaurant designers, architects, farmers, bread bakers, winemakers, cheese makers and more.

The awards are considered a "social and gastronomic highlight of the year," a prestigious honor celebrating America's culinary culture. On March 22 at Dickie Brennan's Palace Cafe in New Orleans the finalists were announced. The winners are presented on May 3 at the annual black-tie gala at Lincoln Center in New York City marking the 20th anniversary of the awards.

Although the voters are a mix of journalists and past winners, Nation's Restaurant News, through its food writers' blog section, invited the public to vote for Who Would You Nominate For James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef? The public chose Jonathon Sawyer, executive chef of The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland with an overwhelming 43 percent of the votes from the 26 semifinalists.

However, Sawyer did not make the JBF finalists list for Rising Star Chef, under 30 years old, of the Year. Finalists in that category are:

Timothy Hollingsworth of The French Laundry in Yountville, California
Johnny Monis of Komi in Washington, DC
Grégory Pugin of Veritas in New York City
Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon
Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's in New Orleans

Other finalists include:

Best new restaurant
Bibou in Philadelphia
Flour + Water in San Francisco
Frances in San Francisco
Locanda Verde in New York
Marea in New York
RN74 in San Francisco

Top chef prize
Jose Andres of Minibar in Washington, DC
Tom Colicchio of Craft in New York City
Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco
Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles
Charles Phan of The Slanted Door in San Francisco

Outstanding pastry chef
Amanda Cook of CityZen in Washington, DC
Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart Bakery in Minneapolis
Kamel Geuchida of Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas
Nicole Plue of Redd in Yountville, Calif.
Mindy Segal of Mindy's HotChocolate in Chicago

Outstanding service
Alinea in Chicago
Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas
La Grenouille in New York City
Michael Mina in San Francisco
Vetri in Philadelphia

Best International Cookbooks
Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Alfred A. Knopf)
Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (Chronicle Books)
The Country Cooking of Ireland
by Colman Andrews (Chronicle Books)

Plus the following winners have been announced in advance of the May 3 gala:

2010 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award
Ariane and Michael Batterberry, founders of Food & Wine and Food Arts 

2010 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year
Wayne Kostroski, founder of Taste of the NFL

Some notable winners from 2009 include:

Outstanding Restaurant: Jean Georges (Chef/Owner: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Owner: Phil Suarez, New York, NY)
Outstanding Chef: Dan Barber (Blue Hill, New York, NY)
Rising Star Chef: Nate Appleman (A16, San Francisco, CA)
Best New Restaurant: Momofuku Ko (Chef/Owners: David Chang and Peter Serpico, New York, NY)
Cookbook of the Year: Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes (Author: Jennifer McLagan, Publisher: Ten Speed Press, Editor: Clancy Drake)

Complete list of finalists: