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Willows Inn chef in running for best Northwest chef

Blaine Wetzel, the celebrated head chef of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, is one of five finalists vying for best chef in the Northwest honors by  the James Beard Foundation.
Blaine Wetzel, the celebrated head chef of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, is one of five finalists vying for best chef in the Northwest honors by the James Beard Foundation. The Bellingham Herald

A year after he was named one of the top young chefs in America by the James Beard Foundation, the celebrated head chef of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island is once again a finalist for the 2015 James Beard awards.

This time, Blaine Wetzel is one of five vying for best chef in the Northwest, which covers Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Other Northwest finalists and their restaurants are:

• Renee Erickson,

The Whale Wins

in Seattle.



• Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi,

Joule

in Seattle.



• Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton,

Ox

in Portland, Ore.



• Justin Woodward,

Castagna

, in Portland, Ore.



The finalists were announced Tuesday, March 24. The winners will be revealed May 4.

In 2014, Wetzel shared the prestigious Rising Star Chef of the Year honor with Jimmy Bannos Jr. of The Purple Pig in Chicago. It was the first such tie.

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