Three Vermont restaurants are in the running to receive the Oscar of the food industry. A James Beard Award.
It's only Tuesday, but the staff at the Kitchen Table Bistro is winding down from a very busy night. Head Chef Steven Atkins is up for his third James Beard Award for Best Chef in the North East.
"It's exciting. This is just the first step so it doesn't mean too much yet so you try not to get ahead of yourself," said Atkins. He is up against five-time nominee Chef Eric Warnstedt of Hen of the Wood in Waterbury and Aaron Josinski and Nathaniel Wade of Misery Loves Company in Winooski, which has only been open for a few short months.
"Just to be in that mix of chefs that's enough for us," said Atkins. "If more comes along then that's great."
So what makes the small green mountain state so successful in the food industry? We asked food critic Alice Levitt of Seven Days.
"Ten years ago this never would have happened," Levitt explained. "But we've had people who have been here all along in many cases but keep training, keep getting better."
But Atkins agrees, "The secret is pretty much no secret -- it's hard work, it's dedication to what you do every day and it's having fantastic staff that comes in and appreciates how you do what you do," he explained.
Though we've never had a winning chef in Vermont, we have had finalists. But, Levitt thinks this could be our year.
For a state as small as we are, that's a huge thing," Levitt said of having three nominees. "But I always say per capita I think we have the best restaurants in the country. We have some really amazing chefs in little tiny Vermont."
The next step of the competition is on March 18th. That's when the list of 20 nominees for best chef in the Northeast is narrowed down to five.
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