Let the games begin: Twelve of Portland's top culinary dogs are in the running 2013 James Beard Foundation awards. This morning, the foundation unveiled their "long list" of the year's semifinalists—which will be cut down to the final list of nominees on Monday, March 18th. Secret judges from around the country vote on the winner, announced on May 6th in the annual New York ceremony.

While 2011 was a banner year for PDX chefs in the national competition  2012's awards ceremony left Portland's nominees empty handed. As for 2013? A group of strong contenders point to the City of Roses once again bringing home major props.

Portland foodies in the know won't be surprised by the list of semifinalists dominated my industry veterans from the usual roundup headlining restaurants: Vitaly Paley is vying, yet again, for the title of Outstanding Chef, Ox joins the long list for Best New Restaurant, and Castagna's Justin Woodward enters the ring as a possible pick for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

In other categories, Ken’s Artisan Bakery’s Ken Forkish—a four-time semifinalist—is in the running for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Clear Creek Distillery’s Steve McCarthy returns as a semifinalist for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional, and Clyde Common could compete for the Outstanding Bar Program award (a new category as of 2012).

Seven Portlanders (including Ox's two-chef duo Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton) strut their stuff as semifinalists in the 2013 Best Chef Northwest category, competing against seven Seattle chefs and eight semifinalists from Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Only five Portland chefs have brought home the regional title, including Andy Ricker (Pok Pok), Cory Schreiber (Wildwood), Greg Higgins (Higgins), Philippe Boulot (The Heathman), and Vitaly Paley (Paley’s Place). Check out the list below for the 2013 contenders. 

For a complete PDF list of nominees, click here.

BEST CHEFNORTHWEST (SEMIFINALISTS)

Chris Ainsworth, Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, Walla Walla, WA
Andy Blanton, Café Kandahar, Whitefish, MT
Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, Ox, Portland, OR
Jeff Drew, Snake River Grill, Jackson Hole, WY
Renee Erickson, The Whale Wins, Seattle, WA
Jason Franey, Canlis, Seattle, WA
John Gorham, Toro Bravo, Portland, OR
James Honaker, Bistro Enzo, Billings, MT
Brett Knipmeyer, Kinley’s Restaurant & Bar, Anchorage, AK
Gary Kucy, Rupert’s, McCall, ID
Nathan Lockwood, Altura, Seattle, WA
Taite Pearson, Della Mano, Ketchum, ID
Naomi Pomeroy, Beast, Portland, OR
Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon, Portland, OR
Adam Sappington, the Country Cat Dinnerhouse & Bar, Portland, OR
Ethan Stowell, Staple & Fancy Mercantile, Seattle, WA
Jason Stratton, Spinasse, Seattle, WA
Cathy Whims, Nostrana, Portland, OR
Justin wills, Restaurant Beck, Depoe Bay, OR
Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle, WA

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