By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4)– Chef Alex Seidel says winning the 2018 “Best Chef: Southwest” James Beard Award highlights the unique take he offers on food while also celebrating the growing dining scene in Colorado.

“It was a pretty amazing experience. I didn’t expect to hear my name being called,” he said on Friday.

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(credit: Alex Seidel)

Seidel attended the awards ceremony in Chicago on Monday. The category of “Best Chef: Southwest” considers nominees from six different states, including Colorado. He had been nominated for the award before winning this year. He says the James Beard Foundation Awards are like the Grammys for his industry.

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(credit: Alex Seidel)

“I really never have any expectations, I didn’t get into this business for awards,” he said. “I got into this business because I truly love cooking.”

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(credit: CBS)

Fruition on 6th Avenue has been open for more than a decade. His other restaurant is Mercantile inside Union Station. He also owns a farm outside of Denver that supplies ingredients for his restaurants.

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(credit: CBS)

“James Beard is a culinary icon,” Seidel explained. “He’s considered the Grandfather of American Cuisine.”

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(credit: Alex Seidel)

The award represents an acknowledgement of what is happening in the dining scene around Denver and Colorado. He shares his win with his entire team and thinks others based in this state should also celebrate.

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Chef Alex Seidel (credit: CBS)

“It’s not about one name, it’s so much more than that, he said. “Our city, our community, our state, it’s grown.”

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(credit: CBS)

Seidel says over the past five years the talent in Colorado has risen to an impressive level. Even after winning such a prestigious award, he says he is still excited to keep learning as a chef.

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(credit: CBS)

“We have definitely created some exposure to Denver and Colorado,” said Seidel. “It brought people into our communities to see for their selves.”

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(credit: CBS)

Over the past decade, three chefs have one in that category from Colorado. They feed into the trend of more businesses coming to the state to compete in the restaurant scene. He says those entrepreneurs have identified a potential in Denver.

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(credit: Alex Seidel)

“I come from a pretty simple background,” he said. “I grew up with a single mom; we didn’t always have access to the best foods.”

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TOP CHEF — “Smile and Say Mise” Episode 1502 — Pictured: (l-r) Bruce Kalman, Alex Seidel, Tom Colicchio — (Photo by: Paul Trantow/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Fruition and Mercantile pride themselves on providing an experience that does not turn away diners. Seidel points out you won’t see white linen tablecloths at his restaurants.

“You want to do your best to bring that to people without pretension, without price, and make it as approachable as you can,” he explained.

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Alex Seidel, at left, in the kitchen (credit: Paul Trantow/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Originally from Wisconsin, Seidel says you need only look to his roots to learn more about him and his restaurants.

“I remember opening up with chicken noodle soup on the menu,” he said. “Confit chicken, handmade pasta, technically driven.”

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(credit: CBS)

He hopes the award and other trends in town keep bringing more attention to the state. But he says unlike any other place in the country, there is a comradery here that the industry should always keep.

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(credit: Alex Seidel)

“I think it’s one of the things that really separates Denver from anywhere else I’ve been, said Seidel. “It’s this whole community that really supports each other.”

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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