James Syhabout, Yoshihiro Sako Among Local James Beard Awards Semifinalists

Lance Winters of St. George Spirits is another East Bay nominee.


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The James Beard Foundation announced today its list of semifinalists for the prestigious thirtieth annual James Beard Awards — honoring what its esteemed insiders deem the nation's best restaurants and chefs.

And that list includes Yoshihiro Sako of Oakland-based Den Sake Brewery.

Nominated in the "Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer" category, Sako is the head brewer and cofounder of three-year-old Den — which, as Oakland's first-ever sake brewery, uses Cal-Hikari rice grown on the Sacramento Valley's Rue & Forsman ranch to produce small-batch spirits aimed especially at complementing California cuisine as well as Asian cuisines. 

Nominated in that same category is another East Bayite: Lance Winters of Alameda-based St. George Spirits.

Berkeley's Great China restaurant has been nominated in the "Outstanding Wine Program" category. 

While the aforementioned categories span the whole USA, certain categories are divided into local regions. In a new development — first announced recently amidst wild industrywide buzz — California is now its own region. (So, as of this year, is Texas.)

James Syhabout of Oakland's Commis restaurant is a nominee in the "Best Chef: California" category.

The semifinalists list will be narrowed down to a smaller list of finalists on March 25.

The winners will be announed at an awards ceremony, held in Chicago, on May 4. 

You can see the full list of nominees here.

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