Last week the James Beard Foundation announced the nominees for its awards. This week Food & Wine magazine announced a roster of 100 chefs — 10 chefs in 10 regions — in the running for its People’s Best New Chefs award.

The Beard Foundation used to refer to its awards as the Oscars of the food world, but its Restaurant and Chef awards are more like the Emmys: Many of the same chefs, restaurants, restaurateurs and beverage professionals are nominated year after year.

Unlike the Emmys, Beard Award winners are ineligible to win again in that category for a number of years. Still, a good 60 percent of nominees from last year are on the list again this year.

Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chefs awards are fairly new — just four years old — but they are an extension of the magazine’s Best New Chef awards, which are 26 years old. The awards, determined by the magazine’s editorial staff, have long been a career maker. Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Rick Bayless were all in the inaugural class in 1988.

By extending the awards to a category voted on by the masses, Food & Wine is creating added buzz for its Best New Chefs awards, which it will announce on Tuesday, and stimulating reader engagement, something we in media are all looking for these days.

Also, it gets both the chefs and Food & Wine extra press, and that’s the real benefit of the awards, especially for the chefs.

The Providence Journal lauded the two Rhode Island chefs nominated, Matthew MacCartney of Jamestown Fish and Nemo Bolin of Cook & Brown Public House,  and provided a link so readers knew exactly where to vote for local favorites.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer gave local chef Chris Hodgson of Driftwood Restaurants and Catering a similar treatment, but with a more dramatic picture, of Hodgson getting ready to chow down on what looks like a beefy hero.

Eater.com’s Denver site celebrates chef Steve Redzikowski of Boulder, Colo., restaurant Oak on Fourteenth and Denver’s Acorn as the only Colorado nominee this year. But Eater also took the time to acknowledge past local winners of the more prestigious Best New Chefs awards — Alex Seidel of Fruition in Denver and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, who also is a partner in the Pizzeria Locale chain that Chipotle recently invested in. The mention of Patterson and Seidel shows how awards like those can keep generating media attention for years.

Beard Award nominees get similar treatment by local press. The Napa Valley Register acknowledged local operator Cindy Pawlcyn for her nomination for Outstanding Restaurateur, conveniently listing her restaurants, Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, just in case anyone wanted to eat there, as well as The Restaurant at Meadowood, which is up for the award for Outstanding Service.

The Register even gave a nod to Michael Chiarello, who used to run restaurants in Napa Valley, because his San Francisco restaurant, Coqueta, is nominated for best new restaurant of the year.

The press around these awards doesn’t merely celebrate local nominees. Eater.com analyzed Beard Award nominees over the past five years to see how women had fared in the competition.

Voting for the People’s Best New Chef runs through March 31. The Best New Chefs — the ones chosen by Food & Wine’s editors — will be announced the following day.

The final round of voting for the Beard Awards, which is done by about 600 judges, who are past winners and members of the media across the country, is underway and concludes on April 18. The winners will be announced on May 5.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
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