The Mountain West is very well represented in this year's James Beard Awards, the semifinalists for which were last week.
The awards are often called the Oscars of the food world.
"They are the highest accolades that you can possibly earn, and they're extra special, I think, too, because it is pretty much recognition from your peers," said Denise Mickelsen, food editor at Denver-based 5280 magazine.
This year, Mickelsen said, a regional category shift helped spotlight the Mountain West's top restaurants and chefs.
"Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming are all in one region together, whereas before we were part of the Southwest region," she said. "And Texas is a big culinary heavy hitter, so to not have to compete against Texas chefs anymore is a big deal for chefs in the Mountain region."
As Mickelsen for 5280, Colorado has 18 semifinalists-its most ever.
"The floodgates are open," Denver's Kelly Whitaker, a two-time semifinalist, told Mickelsen. "Mountain says a lot about who we are, and [the new region] is an opportunity to change the perception of what it means to cook here. It's a great list and I am very humbled to be on it with these amazing chefs."
The final nominations will be announced on March 25.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at .