By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 21, 2011 at 2:55 PM

This afternoon the James Beard Foundation announced the final nominees for its 2011 awards. Sanford's Justin Aprahamian has made it to the next round.

Aprahamian, who was nominated for the second straight year and this year in two categories -- Rising Star Chef of the Year and Best Chef: Midwest -- has advanced in the latter category. We'll find out whether or not he wins when the final victors are announced on May 9 at Lincoln Center in New York.

"It is definitely satisfying," Aprahamian says of getting noticed by the prestigious Beard Foundation.

"It's not the point of what we do, but it's most certainly accepted. It's quite the group of people to have your name mentioned with. As for my response last year to the first nomination, Sandy told me over dinner, and all I could say was "Are you f-ing kidding me?!" It was a strange feeling, like somebody is paying attention, and perhaps even enjoyed what we were doing."

The other finalists in the category are Tory Miller of Madison's L'Etoile, Isaac Becker of Minneapolis' 112 Eatery, Colby Garrelts, of Bluestern in Kansas City, Mo., and Lenny Russo of Heartland in St. Paul, Minn.

Hinterland's Dan Van Rite was also a semi-finalist in the Best Chef: Midwest category but did not make it through.

Meanwhile, Watts Tea Shop is among the winners of Beard's Our America’s Classics Award -- for restaurants more than a decade old.

Other winners include Chef Vola’s in Atlantic City, N.J., Crook's Corner, Chapel Hill, N.C., Noriega Restaurant & Hotel in Bakersfield, Calif., and New York's Le Veau d’Or.

We'll have a full interview with Aprahamian in coming days. Stay tuned.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.