Several years ago, I picked up “James Beard’s Beard on Pasta” at a library book sale. I didn’t know who James Beard was at the time, but the recipes looked oh so good. I now know that Beard is considered the father of American gourmet cooking. After his death, his home was preserved and turned into the James Beard Foundation.

Each year the foundation presents The James Beard Foundation Awards, which are considered one of the food world's top honors. The 2011 nominees have just been announced, and as usual the list is long, prestigious and interesting.

The awards cover all aspects of American food — chefs; food and beverage professionals; broadcast media, journalists, and authors working on food; and restaurant architects and designers. The winners of the awards will be announced on May 6. You’ll need to check out the entire list of nominees for yourself, but I thought I’d point out a few that caught my attention.

  • In the General Cooking category, the cookbook “Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease" by Rozanne Gold. It looks like a cookbook that needs to be checked out.
  • In the Television Special/Documentary category, I’m intrigued by the title of "The Four Coursemen". I looked up their website, and I definitely want to know more about this group that serves five-course dinners with sustainable ingredients for 28 friends twice a month.
  • In the Outstanding Restaurant category, I’m thrilled to see a Philadelphia restaurant, Vetri, nominated. I’ve heard great things about the Center City restaurant, and it’s been on my list of places to go.
Based on the list of nominees, I’ve got at least three new things to add on my ever-growing, need-to-check-it-out list. Did anything on the nominee list catch your attention?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

2011 James Beard Award nominees announced
You're bound to find something that piques your interest in this list of distinguished nominees for the top food awards.