Yesterday, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2024 list of semifinalists, and almost half of the Twin Cities-based nominees can be proudly claimed by downtown and Southwest Minneapolis, specifically.
Daniel del Prado (Porzana) is on the prestigious shortlist for Outstanding Chef, a national category, along with chefs from much bigger food cities like New York and Los Angeles. Likewise, Meteor is up for Outstanding Bar, against other bars, breweries and distilleries peppered across the country.
Ann Ahmed (Khâluna) is once again being considered for Best Chef: Midwest, a regional category that considers chefs in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Northeast Minneapolis’ Christia Nguyen (Hai Hai) and St. Paul’s Karyn Tomlinson (Myriel) are also nominated for Best Chef: Midwest. Both were semifinalists in the category last year, along with Ahmed and Yia Vang (Union Hmong Kitchen), who can be claimed by both downtown and Southwest. Ann Kim (Young Joni) was the last hometown hero to win Best Chef: Midwest in 2019.
St. Paul’s Marc Heu (Marc Heu Pâtisserie Paris) is on the 2024 longlist for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker, a national category that gave a nod to Shawn McKenzie (Café Cerés) in 2023.
Last but certainly not least, Oro by Nixta in Northeast Minneapolis could claim the coveted Best New Restaurant honor, claimed by Owamni in 2022.
The James Beard Foundation will announce which of the semifinalists will move on to the final round of consideration on April 3. Winners in each category will receive medals, considered the Oscars of the culinary world, during a gala on June 10 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Originally hailing from Buenos Aires, del Prado opened his buzzy Argentinian steakhouse, Porzana, in the North Loop last August.
He moved to the U.S. in his early twenties, originally landing in Colorado and eventually moving to Minneapolis, where he helped his mentor Isaac Becker open Bar La Grassa in 2009. After spending some time in Portland, Oregon, del Prado returned to Minneapolis in 2013 to lead the kitchen at Becker’s now-closed Burch Steak and Pizza.
He then struck out on his own to open his first restaurant, Martina, in 2017. He got Best Chef: Midwest nods in 2019 and 2020 for Martina.
Since launching that initial restaurant, del Prado has put his stamp on about a dozen other concepts, including Blondette, Colita, Café Cerés, Rosalia and Sanjusan.
Industry veterans Elliot Manthey and Robb Jones teamed up on Meteor, a no-frills cocktail bar whose tagline is an “old ass bar" with "good ass drinks,” in late 2019 after working in swankier cocktail-forward restaurants around the Twin Cities.
This is Meteor's first shoutout from the James Beard Foundation, but it's widely beloved around here. It's basically your favorite bartender’s favorite bar, especially after a late-night shift.
Meteor kind of exists in no man’s land; it isn’t quite in the North Loop, in north Minneapolis, or in Northeast. As such, Downtown Voices claims it, and all of the other excellent businesses located in the limbo between the Mississippi River and I-94, including Bar Brava and Pryes Brewing Co.
Ahmed’s popular Laotian restaurant, Khâluna, quickly garnered praise both locally and nationally after it launched in October 2021.
In late 2022, she announced that she was closing her original restaurant, Lemon Grass Thai in Brooklyn Park, and teased a new concept coming to the former 4 Bells space in Loring Park in 2023. That’s where she opened Gai Noi, another Laotian restaurant, last May.
Ahmed also owns and operates Lat14 in Golden Valley.