Valley chef becomes finalist for prestigious James Beard award

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - "It's an honor just to be nominated" is a phrase you hear a lot from award recipients. But when you're nominated as being one of the best chefs in the entire world, the honor can be life-changing. And this year, only one Arizona chef has been named a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Award.

Chef Charleen Badman is all about not giving up. She's been a semi-finalist for the James Beard award for five years. Her restaurant in Scottsdale, FnB Restaurant, focuses on cooking fresh farm-to-table American fare. And after five years of being a semi-finalist, she's finally been named a finalist - showing the value of hard work and perseverance.

"It's great to be able to represent Arizona," said Badman.

600 food critics and professionals from across America have voted and Badman is now set to attend the 2019 James Beard Awards - also known as the Oscars of cooking.

Last year, more than 20,000 chefs and restaurants in the U.S. submitted their work but only a handful were chosen for the Beard Awards, which is considered for the highest honor for a chef.

"[It's] based on your cooking from 2018," said Badman. "It's based on the work that you do. I've been in this business for 30 years and [it's] something that I've been working toward."

Badman tells us her secret recipe to success is never being complacent and continuing to find ways to improve.

And she doesn't even have a signature dish because her menu at her restaurant is always changing.

"I'm supported by a great team," Badman said. "And we all try to do our best every day."

Badman also heads the Blue Watermelon Project, which brings local chefs and schools together to improve the quality of school lunches as well as to teach students healthy food choices. The initiative is also about exposing the younger generation to a wider variety of foods.

Like her dishes at FnB in Scottsdale, which range from grilled broccoli to a radish salad, and so far - she's been seasoning her dishes just right - to win the hearts of the judges.

"Of course I hope I win, but we'll see," Badman said.

Again, Badman is the only finalist from Arizona - the four others in the southwest category are from Texas. The winners will be announced at the James Beard Awards Gala on May 6 in Chicago.

Good luck, Charleen!