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Brick 29 - Easy Cookin' - Boise State International Food Festival

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Nampa's Brick 29 Chef Makes the Coveted Beard List

If given a chance to cook a meal for the judges of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards, Chef Dustan Bristol of Brick 29 would dish up one of his favorites: deconstructed shepherd's pie. Dutchess potatoes, sweet corn flan, sweet pea mousse, carrot foam and seared local lamb chop. But that's not gonna happen. Not because he won't be cooking for the judges but because that pie isn't on his restaurant's menu.

If you've never heard of the James Beard awards, one loaded word seems synonymous with them: Oscars.

"It's the Oscars for hospitality, for service, for restaurateurs, for chefs, for rising stars," explains not only Bristol but the foundation's Web site as well.

In the food world, just being nominated for a James Beard award is as big a deal as getting an Academy Award nod.

Open nominations for the annual award happen in the fall, and a team of regional judges whittles this list down to a manageable 20 nominees in each of the 19 categories. Bristol, a grad of Boise State's culinary program, was nominated in the Best Chef: Northwest category (which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) and is the only Idaho nominee to get mentioned at all.

On March 23, the judges announce the top five finalists, who will travel to New York City for the final awards ceremony in May, when only one will get top chef honors.

Unlike Top Chef, however, nominees don't get the chance to throw down and show off for a panel of judges in a fight for the title. Instead, chefs are judged on what's coming off the lines in their restaurants. Deconstructed shepherd's pie may be what Bristol considers his award-winning dish, but since his customers can't order, neither can his judges.

But, as anyone who's eaten at Brick 29 knows, Bristol's food deserves the attention. Since Brick 29's opening almost two years ago, Bristol has been stockpiling a nice collection of foodie regulars and convincing the meat-and-potatoes types in Nampa that their favorite meal can be transformed into the likes of a house-marinated black angus flatiron steak with garlic mashed red potatoes, fresh herb chimichurri and balsamic barbeque.

Bristol is also one of those chefs who likes to keep it close to home, meaning what you find on your plate likely didn't travel too far to get there.

"Lately, I've been using Idaho yak from Shoshone, and I'll being doing a lot of chickens this year from Home Grown Poultry," says Bristol, adding that he also plans to rely heavily on locally raised free-range turkeys and locally grown produce this summer.

So where's a top chef eating when he's not slaving away in his own kitchen?

With a rare whole day off last week, Bristol dined at the North End's Cafe Vicino for lunch and Flatbread Community Oven in Meridian for dinner.

Beard in Idaho, Part II

Speaking of top chefs, Tom Douglas of Dahlia Lounge in Seattle, who won the Best Chef: Northwest title himself in 1994 and is a nominee this year in the Outstanding Restaurateur category, will be in Boise this week teaching a class at Easy Cookin'. Look around the room at the audience, and chances are you'll see chef Bristol, who Easy Cookin' says scored the last open slot to attend. Douglas will be among the last chefs to teach at Easy Cookin', which is slated to close by month's end. Unfortunately, the class is completely full, so unless someone drops off the list, you're not likely to get in the door.

This Week's Wine and Dine

This week's recommended feed-your-face event is Boise State's International Food, Song and Dance Festival. The annual celebration, which is a 30-year tradition, dishes up food from all over the world courtesy of Boise State's international student community. Check out meat and non-meat grub from the Netherlands, China, Poland and Iraq, as well as music, dance, a flag parade and an international fashion show.

Saturday, March 7, 6 p.m., adults $16 and students $12 in advance, $19/$15 at the door. Boise State Student Union Jordan Ballroom, 208-426-3652.

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