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From sandwich shop to culinary spotlight, Story owner named James Beard semi-finalist
Story restaurant proprietor Carl Thorne-Thomsen got his first job in the business when the owner of a gourmet grocer in Wichita hired him to help run her new sandwich counter.
“I didn’t have any real experience at all,” he said. “But we’d gotten to know each other when I went in to her store to buy ingredients, and I guess she trusted me.”
That woman would later become Thorne-Thomsen’s wife.
And it’s fair to say Susan Thorne-Thomsen had an eye for talent. Because 13 years after Susan gave Carl his first cooking job, he’s made the short list for an honor coveted across the culinary world.
The James Beard Foundation on Tuesday released its list of semi-finalists for its 2013 awards — considered among the highest honors for restauranteurs — and Thorne-Thomsen is one of 20 remaining nominees in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Two additional KC-area chefs, Martin Heuser of Affäre and Colby Garrelts of Bluestem, made the semi-finalist list as well.
Thorne-Thomsen’s inclusion on the list may not too surprising considering his tutelage under James Beard winners Michael Smith and Debbie Gold, who ran 40 Sardines in 2003 when Thorne-Thomsen started work as a cook there. Thorne-Thomsen said that back then he may have had flashes of longing for earning such recognition one day, but would never dwell on it.
“Maybe somewhere in the back of your mind you let yourself imagine something like this,” he said. “But then you go right back to focusing on the task at hand, which is putting out really good food, consistently every day.”
The James Beard Foundation will announce its 2013 award finalists March 18.
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