By Shawn Chitnis

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The owners of Frasca Food and Wine are excited to be nominated for one of the top honors in the culinary world and say winning the James Beard Award for best restaurant would not only be an accomplishment for their team but also the city and state.

frasca 6 James Beard Awards Like The Oscars For Nominated Colorado Restaurant

Bobby Stuckey (credit: CBS)

“When we opened, you know, we had aspirational dreams to just stay open and take care of our guests as best we could,” said Bobby Stuckey, co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine. “We wake up every day still nervous like we’re a startup.”

The restaurant he runs along with partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson opened on Pearl Street in 2004. They’ve received nominations and some awards along the way but winning in this category would be a huge acknowledgment of the work they and other restaurateurs are doing across Colorado.

frasca 5 James Beard Awards Like The Oscars For Nominated Colorado Restaurant

(credit: CBS)

“For us, The James Beard Award is like the Oscars,” said Stuckey. “The fact that a little restaurant on the corner of 18th and Pearl in Boulder, Colorado is up for that, it surpasses all the dreams and expectations you have as a restaurant team and family.”

Frasca, nominated for “Outstanding Restaurant,” is one of three establishments in the state nominated for the Awards. Alex Seidel of Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver is a nominee for “Best Chef: Southwest” and The Little Nell is a nominee for “Best Wine Program” in Aspen.

frasca 3 James Beard Awards Like The Oscars For Nominated Colorado Restaurant

(credit: CBS)

Stuckey says part of their success is that they still have many members of their original team that were there on opening night. He also believes their commitment to cuisine from Friuli, a region in northeast Italy, has helped them to stand out.

“It’s kept a vision and a focus that maybe other restaurants wouldn’t have 14 years later,” he said.

frasca James Beard Awards Like The Oscars For Nominated Colorado Restaurant

Frasca Food and Wine (credit: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Earlier this year, semifinalists were announced in each category. Those contenders were narrowed down to five nominees in a live announcement from the James Beard Foundation in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Stuckey was traveling back to Colorado and nervously followed the event on his laptop.

“I was on a plane flying back yesterday so I was watching the updates via Twitter,” he told CBS4 on Thursday. “You can’t have a more stressful 90 minutes on a plane.”

Frasca has previously won a James Beard Award for its wine program and Mackinnon-Patterson has won for “Best Chef: Southwest” as well. Each time they bring home this honor to Colorado, it underscores the challenge of competing among the best in the country from a developing food scene.

frasca 4 James Beard Awards Like The Oscars For Nominated Colorado Restaurant

(credit: CBS)

“It much harder to get noticed when you’re in a town of 100,000,” said Stuckey. “So many restaurants deserve to be on that list of five and you just hope you that this is the year you get nominated.”

But what some may consider a setback is a source of motivation for the entire team. Stuckey says it gives them an extra reason to go above and beyond each day.

“It kind of puts a chip on our shoulder, we know we’re up against the odds,” he said.

frasca 1 James Beard Awards Like The Oscars For Nominated Colorado Restaurant

CBS4’s Shaun Chitnis interviews Stuckey. (credit: CBS)

The James Beard Awards are often compared to the Oscars and if they are the Academy Awards of food, then Frasca is essentially up for the “Best Picture” category.

“From dishwasher up to Lachlan and I, it is one team chipping away every day with that goal to take care of the guests the best we possibly we can,” said Stuckey.

Compared to other regions in the country where chefs and restaurateurs may be less excited for each other and focused on their own nominations, Stuckey says in this state there is a camaraderie in the industry. They all know what these Awards do for their reputation among food lovers in America.

“This is wonderful for Frasca but it’s a much bigger deal for the Denver metro area and the state of Colorado,” he said. “It’s a really exciting time to be here.”

See the full list of nominees at jamesbeard.org.

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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