James Beard Foundation award nominees in AZ

Arizona representin', yo: Our corner of the culinary universe just got a few tips of the hat from the granddaddy of foodie organizations, the James Beard Foundation.

Barbara Yost from the Republic -- who wrote a behind-the-scenes feature on Olive & Ivy -- is among the final three contenders for "Best Newspaper Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs With or Without Recipes."

Mary Elaine's, under the direction of wine director Gilles Balay, is one of five finalists in the "Outstanding Wine Service Award."

And for the "Best Chef: Southwest" category, chef Nobuo Fukuda of Sea Saw is the only Arizona finalist. Chefs from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah vie for this award; this year's four other finalists are all from the Lone Star State.

If you've ever had the chance to try Fukuda's exquisite and adventurous creations, you'll understand why he deserves to win this. In any case, it's a huge honor for any chef just to be nominated, so next time you sidle up to the bar at Sea Saw, be sure to wish him an enthusiastic "Omedetou Gozaimasu!"

Winners will be announced on May 7 (a day earlier for the media awards).

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