By Monica Stockbridge

The 2020 James Beard Foundation award finalists have been announced, and Colorado has once again proven itself a worthy competitor among an impressive spread of national talent.

The announcement comes after being postponed from its original March date, due to the coronavirus pandemic. And while it’s a bittersweet time to celebrate restaurants and dining at this time, it’s a great reminder of the talent and experiences we all hope to enjoy once again in the near future.

This year, the Best Chef: Mountain region finalist category included Carrie Baird of Bar Dough, Dana Rodriquez of Super Mega Bien, Caroline Glover of Annette, and Kelly Whitaker of The Wolf’s Tailor. In the Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Producer category, Todd Leopold and Scott Leopold of Leopold Bros. distillery made the cut. El Taco de Mexico also made the list for the America’s Classics Awards (announced earlier this year) and Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine is a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant.

Frasca Food and Wine meal
Frasca Food and Wine

We’re especially excited about three of those names: Carrie Baird, Dana Rodriguez and Caroline Glover. These talented chefs were on the cover of Colorado Traveler’s spring 2020 issue. We knew then that they were something special, and to see them each nominated for a James Beard award this year only confirms it.

Award winners Carrie Baird, Dana Rodriguez and Caroline Glover
Carrie Baird, Dana Rodriguez and Caroline Glover

Carrie Baird became a household name after competing on “Top Chef” season 15, filmed in Colorado. After living in Breckenridge for over a decade, she put down her skis and picked up a chef’s knife, and the rest is history. She’s known for her “Fancy Toast,” which is on the menu at Bar Dough as well as her latest venture, Rose’s Classic Americana in Boulder’s Rosetta Hall.

Portrait of Carrie Baird
Carrie Baird

Dana Rodriquez is no stranger to the James Beard awards. In fact, she was a Best Chefs in America semifinalist in 2015, 2016 and 2018 for her restaurant, Work & Class. In our 2019 cover story, she told us “I never thought I’d be cooking at all,” until she arrived in Colorado and landed a job at Panzano under Chef Jennifer Jasinski — also a James Beard award winner.

Portrait of Dana Rodriquez
Dana Rodriquez

Caroline Glover has given new credence to Aurora, the Denver suburb where her restaurant, Annette, opened in 2016. This isn’t her first James Beard award nomination, either. After working on farms and in acclaimed restaurants, Glover has brought new attention to seasonal cooking with a menu that is “always evolving, changing with the seasons, changing to reflect the produce that local farmers are giving us, or changing to make sure the kitchen and the bar are cross-utilizing ingredients,” she told us.

Portrait of Caroline Glover
Caroline Glover

The James Beard Foundation awards honor the best of the best in the restaurant industry. Restaurant and chef award winners will be announced on Friday, September 25, 2020, from Chicago, broadcast live via the James Beard Foundation’s Twitter feed. Learn more at jamesbeard.org.

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