Before 2016, San Antonio had been absent from the list for two years.
Among the semifinalists are five ME chefs nominated in the Best Chef: Northeast category. She was not familiar with James Beard Foundation, which oversees what many consider the Oscars of the food world, and who had to be told why this was a pretty big deal.
This is the fifth time that Silvana Salcido Esparza has made the list for the Best Chef: Southwest award, which recognizes "chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions".
"The prestigious group of semifinalists in 21 categories represents a wide range of culinary talent, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations in ten different regions across the USA, to the nation's top wine and spirits professionals, best new restaurants, rising star chefs, pastry chefs, and bakers", a news release said.
Restaurants in this category must have been in operation 10 or more years.
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Also, one Milwaukee restaurant is one of the semifinalists for the Outstanding Restaurateurs award.
Pastry chef Megan Garrelts has been nominated for her work at the Midwest-meets-Southern-inflected Ryein Leawood.
Collingswood's Sagami has vaulted into the big leagues, named as a semifinalist in the James Beard Awards' outstanding restaurant category alongside Jose Andres' Jaleo in Washington, D.C., David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas.
Judges culled the list from 24,000 online entries, whittling it down to semifinalists in 21 categories, including 19 local nominees. The announcements are broadcast online via the Foundation's Facebook Live feed.
Five finalists per category will be unveiled March 15, and the winners will be announced May 1 at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.