Gina Marinelli of La Strega and Harlow nominated for the James Beard Award

Being an executive chef makes for a very busy career – even with one busy restaurant under your watch. Will it simultaneously become the highest mark of a second, very popular institution? Double the workload. To be named a James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist as Gina Marinelli? Triple your duties.

But with a smile always present, she is thrilled when she is named to the highest rank of American chef with a calm, brilliant, collected stride befitting a hero.

In recent years, Marinelli has gained widespread fame as chef/partner at La Strega, an elegant and adventurous Italian establishment in southern Summerlin – braised rabbit with more polenta than spaghetti and meatballs. Then, last winter, she took on the same role at the impressive Harlo Steakhouse & Bar in downtown Summerlin – here chilled seafood towers and 14-day-old ribeyes occupy the chic and lively room. (Both restaurants are owned by the same company).

Following the February announcement of her nomination as one of three finalists for the Beard Foundation Awards in the Southwest, Marinelli said both restaurants are more popular than ever — especially among Summerlin residents who weren’t familiar with the establishments. And she knows that she and her teams are in the spotlight even brighter than before. “We have this thing hovering over us – it’s such an honor, and we want to live up to it every single day.”

Prior to pursuing her suburban career, Marinelli graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, Florida. From there she began a successful career in the sector, including working in kitchens at Nobhill Tavern, American Fish, Sage and DOCG Enoteca.

Marinelli said the entire team enjoys the filtering glow, from the back to the front of the house — everyone contributes to the culinary magic.

“I think personally, I’m pushing myself a little bit more,” Marinelli said. “It is exciting to come to this place.”

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