The James Beard awards are the Oscars of the culinary world — they’re one of the highest honors a chef, bartender, restaurant owner, sommelier or otherwise food-related professional can receive.
That’s why it’s such a big deal that one of Boulder’s most beloved chefs is a finalist. Eric Skokan, who runs Bramble & Hare and Black Cat Farm with his wife Jill Skokan, is a finalist for best chef of the mountain region.
The foundation announced its award semifinalists in February, a list that included 13 Colorado eateries, chefs and restaurant owners. Now, that list been whittled down to even fewer finalists, which includes Skokan and:
- Aspen’s Little Nell for outstanding wine program
- Jose Avila of Denver’s El Borrego Negro for best chef of the mountain region
- Cody Cheetham of Denver’s Tavernetta for best chef of the mountain region
- Caroline Glover of Aurora’s Annette for best chef of the mountain region
- Dana Rodriguez of Denver’s Work & Class for best chef of the mountain region
The Skokan family endured an unimaginable tragedy in the summer of 2020 when their 17-year-old son, Kelsey, died from injuries suffered during a car accident. Kelsey and his brother Ian were driving not far from the Skokan family home when a truck collided with the car; Ian suffered minor injuries and the truck also caused extensive damage to the Skokan’s home.
The Skokans also found creative ways to pivot and innovate during the pandemic, when their restaurants were closed. They launched dinners at their 425-acre farm, started a farm store and even had a mobile farm truck.
The winners will be announced at an award’s ceremony in Chicago on June 13, with a theme of “Gather for Good.”
The James Beard awards return after a two-year hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are truly excited to be holding the awards again this year after two years of unremitting challenges for our industry, and after a fundamental overhaul of the awards program,” says Clare Reichenbach, the James Beard Foundation CEO. “This year’s awards offer a wonderful opportunity to gather as a community, look to the future and celebrate those leading the way.”
During the pandemic pause, the organization also spent some time evaluating how to make the awards more inclusive. It seems they’ve succeeded: This year’s list of nominees is one of the most diverse on record.
“The awards are a great reminder that we are among innovators, entrepreneurs and trailblazers who represent a wide range of regions, cultures and cooking philosophies,” says Tanya Holland, who chairs the awards committee. “And this year, in particular, is a great reminder of how incredibly diverse our industry is. I am proud of the changes the James Beard Foundation has made to the awards program to ensure equity and inclusion, and though it is just the beginning of an ongoing commitment, we are already seeing the impact. This is the most diverse list I’ve seen in awards history, and I am honored to be a part of that change.”