Vail chef Kelly Liken receives national honor |

Vail chef Kelly Liken receives national honor

Nicole Inglis
Vail CO, Colorado
Daily File Photo/Preston Utley

VAIL, Colorado ” Local chef Kelly Liken received one of the highest honors in the culinary industry by being chosen as a semifinalist for the coveted James Beard Foundation Awards.

Dubbed the “Oscars of the food world” by Time magazine, the James Beard Foundation Awards recognizes the brightest stars in the culinary world, including categories for chefs, restaurateurs, journalists, design and service. The scope of the awards ” and the lavish event complete with red carpets and after parties ” has given the ceremony a reputation for being the who’s who gathering of the culinary industry.

Up to 20 semifinalists are chosen in each category, from open submissions to the restaurant and chefs award committee. A panel of 400 judges, comprised of past winners, journalists and chefs, provide the voice of the industry, voting on the five nominees for each category. The winner will be unveiled at a ceremony on May 3.

Liken said she attended the event once, eight years ago, when she was fresh out of culinary school.

“It’s set up a lot like the Oscars, and just the amount of famous chefs that I had looked up to for so long all in the same room was amazing,” she said.

If Liken is chosen as a finalist (nominees will be announced March 23), she will travel to New York City in early May not as a star-struck young chef, but as a representative of Vail and Colorado who has received a nod of recognition and respect from her culinary peers.

Liken said she was surprised to hear she was a semifinalist.

“It’s not something you apply for,” Liken said. “It’s an honor that your peers are bestowing upon you and you don’t even know that they are looking at you for it. I was so excited that I was screaming. I just didn’t believe it.”

Announced on Feb. 13, Liken was chosen as a semifinalist in the “Best Chef in the Southwest” category, alongside three other Colorado chefs ” Mark Fischer from Restaurant Six89 in Carbondale, Ryan Hardy from Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen and Alex Seidel from Fruition Restaurant in Denver.

“Colorado is very well represented,” Liken said. “The Southwest includes places like Las Vegas, Scottsdale and Phoenix, which all have really great restaurants. It’s a tough category geographically and I’m very proud.”

The judges will give the highest honor to the chefs who display unique and lasting talent in their field and have made an impact on the culinary standards of their region.

Nicole Inglis can be reached at ninglis

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User