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Chef Paul Bartolotta wins James Beard Award

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Wynn chef Paul Bartolotta.
The Wynn

Though thousands of miles away from the James Beard Foundation Award ceremony held this evening, May 4, at the Lincoln Center in New York City, Vegas wasn’t far from the thoughts of the foodies and chefs gathered for what is often referred to as the Oscars of the restaurant industry.

Fifteen years after winning his first James Beard Award, Chef Paul Bartolotta of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas was named the country’s best chef in the Southwest region for 2009.

Established in 1990 to honor chefs, restaurants, cookbook authors and food journalists, the awards are a highly anticipated annual event that celebrates the best in American cooking and can pave the way for years of success in the chefs and restaurants lucky enough to receive its blessings. Bartolotta previously won the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Midwest in 1994 for his work at critically acclaimed Chicago eatery Spiaggia.

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Langoustine at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at the Wynn.

Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare is an AAA Four Diamond Award-winning restaurant known for updated Italian cuisine with a focus on fresh seafood and homemade pastas that bring a bit of moisture to its desert locale. Each week, one and a half tons of seafood arrives from cities along the Mediterranean, which Bartolotta and his crew fashion into enticing plates like whole imperial snapper and pasta “rags” with lobster, shrimp, crab and other seafood in white wine sauce.

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Sheltered from the Strip, Bartolotta puts outdoor dining in a whimsical setting.

In front of restaurant industry legends like Eric Ripert, Grant Achantz, Emeril Lagasse and Todd English, Bartolotta accepted his medal in dark tuxedo paired with an orange shirt. Hopefully, his presence and his much-coveted award will remind the restaurant industry and its fanatic followers that even in this slumping economy and even if you don’t want to hit the tables, Las Vegas is a worthwhile destination – for dinner as much as anything else.

Also honored in this evening’s award ceremony were:

Best Chef: Northeast: Rob Evans, Hugo's, Portland, ME

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic: Jose Garces, Amada, Philadelphia

Best Chef: Southeast: Mike Lata, Fig, Charleston, SC

Best Chef: New York City: Gabriel Kreuther, The Modern

Best Chef: Great Lakes: Michael Symon, Lola, Cleveland

Best Chef: Midwest: Tim McKee, La Belle Vie, Minneapolis

Best Chef: Northwest: Maria Hines, Tilth, Seattle

Best Chef: South: John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford, MS

Rising Star Chef of the Year: Nate Appleman, A16, San Francisco

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Sarah Feldberg is the editor of Las Vegas Weekly magazine. A veteran journalist, Feldberg previously worked as the Weekly's web ...

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