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Beard Award finalists include Blackbird chef, former Sun-Times food editor

Janet RausFuller (not pictured) former Chicago Sun-Times Food editor was nominated for Beard Award for her series which she wrote

Janet Rausa Fuller (not pictured), former Chicago Sun-Times Food editor, was nominated for a Beard Award for her series in which she wrote about the cooking lessons Mary Jane Tala recieved from chef John Bubala. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 21, 2012 8:07AM

Chicago has a prominent presence in the finalists, announced Monday, for the James Beard Awards — the Oscars of the food world — led by Paul Kahan of Blackbird, who’s nominated for “outstanding chef.”

In the competition’s journalism awards, Janet Rausa Fuller, former Food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, was named a finalist in the “Health & Well-Being” category for her series “Starting from Scratch.”

She followed Chicagoan Mary Jane Tala — chosen by Sun-Times readers — as she worked with Chef John Bubala, restaurant veteran and culinary school instructor, to learn to cook, part of an effort to improve her health and lifestyle.

Other Chicago finalists:

Best New Restaurant: Chef Grant Achatz’s Next. Achatz also will be one of the five people inducted into the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.”

Best Chef, Great Lakes category: Michael Carlson of Schwa; Stephanie Izard of The Girl & the Goat; Bruce Sherman of North Pond, and Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia.

Rising Star Chef: Dave Beran of Next.

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Mindy Segal of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate.

Outstanding Service: Spiaggia and Topolobampo.

Outstanding Bar Program: The Aviary and Violet House.

In the Beard’s journalism awards, Steve Dolinksy of WLS-Channel 7 is a finalist for “The Hungry Hound” segments; Jerome McDonnell of WBEZ for best radio show/audio Webcast; and Kevin Pang of the Chicago Tribune for food-related columns.

Charlie Trotter will receive the Beard Foundation’s humanitarian of the year award.

The awards will be presented May 4 and 7.

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