Kearney was the only chef from the Dayton area, and one of only three in Ohio, to be named. This year, she was joined by Jose Salazar from Mita’s in Cincinnati, and Zack Bruell, chef at Parallax in Cleveland, on the list of 20 semifinalists.
Kearney advanced to the finalist stage in 2012, becoming one of five finalists in the Beard Foundation’s Great Lakes Region that includes Ohio and which also includes Chicago. The Chicago area has dominated the nominations for the regional “best chef” category through the years, and that was the case again this year: 11 of the 20 semifinalists come from Chicago. The previous two years, half of the 20 semifinalists were from the Chicago area.