Chow Town

Kansas City area has five James Beard semifinalists, from chefs to baker to bar

Taylor (left) and Reagan Petrehn are brothers and co-owners of 1900 Barker bakery. The bakery makes bread from Kansas Turkey Red wheat.
Taylor (left) and Reagan Petrehn are brothers and co-owners of 1900 Barker bakery. The bakery makes bread from Kansas Turkey Red wheat. Special to The Star

From chefs to a bar, the Kansas City area is well represented in the James Beard Foundation’s semifinalist list released Wednesday.

Finalists for the awards — considered by many to be the equivalent of a culinary Oscar — will be announced on March 15. The awards ceremony will be May 1 in Chicago.

Best Chef: Midwest

Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda, a rustic-hipster Mexican cantina that started out in an Airstream trailer and now has locations in Westport and Lawrence. He was also named to the list in 2015.

The chef category is divided into 10 geographic regions. Chefs must have been working at least five years, with three of those years spent within the region. Past Kansas City winners include three who won while at the now-closed American Restaurant: Michael Smith (now of Michael Smith and Extra Virgin), Debbie Gold, and Celina Tio (now of Julian and Belfry), and Colby Garrelts of Bluestem and Rye.

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Pastry chef Megan Garrelts has been nominated for her work at the Midwest-meets-Southern-inflected Rye in Leawood. She stood on the podium with her husband in 2013, when Colby Garrelts won Best Chef: Midwest for his excellence at Bluestem, the couple’s flagship fine-dining restaurant in Westport.

Outstanding Restaurant

Also recognized as a semifinalist in this category last year, Bluestem received a major renovation in 2014. It continues to receive kudos as “a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service,” with executive chef Andrew Longres recently promoted to run the kitchen.

Restaurants in this category must have been in operation 10 or more years. Others nominated to this category include Momofuku Noodle Bar and the Spotted Pig in New York City, Topolobampo in Chicago and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas.

Outstanding Bar Program

Manifesto, the moody, speakeasy-style bar in the basement of the Rieger in the Crossroads, is led by Ryan Maybee and a band of some of the city’s most talented bartenders. Manifesto has been singled out by other national awards for its role in spurring excellence within the craft bar movement.

Rieger partner Ryan Maybee and Andy Rieger talked with guests about the Rieger whiskey during recent tour of the distillery at J. Rieger Co., 2700 Guinotte Ave., in the East Bottoms.

Outstanding Baker

Taylor Petrehn of 1900 Barker Bakery & Cafe, which is tucked into — and named for — the east Lawrence neighborhood where Petrehn specializes in old-school breads made from Kansas Turkey Red wheat. This category is for bakers who work in a retail bakery.