Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Tallent Honored By James Beard Awards For Fifth Time

For the fifth time, Chef Dave Tallent made the semifinal list for the James Beard Awards. For him, the nomination is a sign that he's on the right track.

Dave Tallent

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Chef Dave Tallent prepares for dinner service at Restaurant Tallent. He was excited to work with the fresh black bass and albacore tuna that was delivered that day.

Awards For Tasty Food

Hollywood isn’t the only group celebrating their awards season these days. The food world’s version of the Oscars, the James Beard Awards, recently released its list of semifinalists for the 2011 Restaurant and Chef awards.

For the fifth time, Dave Tallent of Bloomington, Indiana’s Restaurant Tallent was nominated under the category Best Chefs of the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio).

“It’s a standard I’ve set for myself,” says Tallent. “If I’m not (nominated), maybe I need to tweak something or try a little bit harder.”

Restaurant Tallent was also the only restaurant in Bloomington this year to receive the Four Diamond Award from AAA.

Nomination Process

The nomination process for the James Beard Awards begins in the fall when there is an open call for entries. From that list, The Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee pares down chefs to 20 per category.

That list of semifinalists is then distributed to previous James Beard Restaurant & Chef Award winners, panelists representing each region, and members of the Restaurant and Chef Award subcommittee. It’s up to the judges to visit the restaurants to taste the food.

The finalists will be announced on March 21, and the same judges will then select the winners, to be announced in May.

It’s An Honor Simply To Be Nominated

Tallent sees the nomination as a measuring stick for his work, commenting that it means he is maintaining a consistent level of excellence. But he has never really imagined making it past the semifinal list.

When asked what it was like to own a restaurant that is a statewide destination for foodies, Tallent shied away from tooting his own horn. “I’m lucky enough that I get to do what I love, and that’s the most important thing. I think when you’re happy in your job, you turn out a better product.”

Dedicated To Local Food

Tallent and his wife and pastry chef Kristen opened Restaurant Tallent in 2003. With the help of local farmers, they produce “unique Indiana cuisine.”

During the cold months, they have had to make some concessions because farmers aren’t showing up at the back door with their trucks full of fresh produce as happens during the growing season. But thanks to the ever-expanding winter farmers market in Bloomington, he has been able to source more food locally this year than in years past.

He has his fingers crossed that as long as temperatures stay warm, more local produce will begin to be available in mid March.

More: Read about how Chef Dave Tallent uses heirloom tomatoes in his cooking, and check out the recipe for his amazing Tomato Melon Salad.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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