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Las Vegas chefs named James Beard Award finalists

Updated May 4, 2020 - 2:26 pm

Las Vegas chefs Dan Krohmer and James Trees were announced Monday as finalists for Best Chef: Southwest in the 2020 James Beard Awards.

Both chefs were nominated for their first restaurants — Other Mama, at 3655 S. Durango Drive, for Krohmer and Esther’s Kitchen, at 1130 S. Casino Center Blvd., for Trees. Both have gone on to open additional restaurants, La Monja and Hatsumi at Fergusons Downtown for Krohmer and Ada’s at Tivoli Village for Trees.

“It’s crazy; I can’t even believe it,” Trees said Monday afternoon. “Who’d have thought my little restaurant would make the impression on Las Vegas that it did? And now to get this acclaim is pretty insane. It’s obviously more about the team than it is about me. These guys have built something that’s pretty outstanding and I’m just lucky to be a part of it. That’s all I can say.”

Trees said the timing of the announcement, during the pause in business necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, was particularly gratifying.

“We’re so down because of this crazy shutdown,” he said. “This has re-energized everyone in the room. We’re so excited about what’s to come. It just made the day.”

Krohmer said he’s been working at getting Other Mama ready to reopen and wasn’t aware of the news. After getting a contratulatory text from local restaurant developer and owner Elizabeth Blau, he said he replied with a question mark.

“Then I heard from a few other people, and then James Trees, so I figured it out,” he said.

Krohmer said it was a little odd getting the news during the shutdown.

“It’s such a weird time in general,” he said. “I’m a little desensitized, I guess. It feels like a movie.

“It’s an honor. There’s every type of publication and review, especially in the food world right now. What is the criteria anymore? James Beard has always been kind of a beacon. I’m not a French-trained chef; the whole European kitchen culture has never been my thing. That’s why I like James Beard. It’s neutral and open. They’re looking for people who are all-encompassing in the food world. That justifies the importance, and why I’ve very proud to be in the running.”

Krohmer and Trees advanced from the semifinal round that also included Nicole Brisson, late of Locale Italian Kitchen, and Alan Ji of Mott 32 at The Venetian and 16 other chefs.

The Southwest division encompasses Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma as well as Nevada. There are four other chefs in the finalist round, three from Arizona and one from New Mexico.

The winners originally had been scheduled to be announced Monday, but both the semifinals and the finals were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The foundation said the announcement of the winners is “still a work in progress.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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