Inquirer Restaurant Critic Craig LaBan has been named a James Beard finalist for restaurant criticism, one in a strong field of nominees in several categories from Philadelphia.

The James Beard Foundation awards, regarded as the Oscars of the food world, have categories spanning restaurants, cookbooks and journalism.

LaBan is a nominee in the restaurant-review category for his reviews of Abe Fisher, Mole Poblano, and Volvér. This is LaBan's fourth nomination; he won the award in 2000.

Philadelphians have three of the five nominations for best chef, mid-Atlantic: Joe Cicala (Le Virtù, Brigantessa), Rich Landau (Vedge, V Street) and Greg Vernick (Vernick Food & Drink).

Marc Vetri, who with business partner Jeff Benjamin has built a small empire since 1998 (Vetri, 2 Osterias, Amis, Alla Spina, Lo Spiedo, Pizzeria Vetri), is up for chef of the year.

Stephen Starr, who owns restaurants in Philadelphia, New York, Atlantic City, Washington, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, is up for restaurateur of the year.

Alex Bois, 28, the wunderkind behind the baked goods at High Street on Market and Fork, is a nominee for rising star chef of the year - appropriate for a baker.

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head in Milton, Del., is up for wine, beer or spirits professional.

The media awards ceremony will be April 24. The restaurant awards will be May 4.

- Michael Klein