RED LODGE - Prerogative Kitchen in Red Lodge was nominated for the James Beard Foundation for the second straight year, but it hasn't been a straight path to national recognition.
Opening a restaurant is never easy, but Prerogative Kitchen in Red Lodge has encountered just about every calamity you can imagine in its first five years of existence.
“It’s gone from COVID, to fire, to flood," co-owner and chef Chris Lockhart said. "It’s like, this past year, so much has happened. I hadn't even thought about the Beard awards."
Back in June, nearly half of the employees working at Prerogative lost their homes during the floods.
MTN shared the story of Taylor Monfort-Eaton, a man who barely escaped his own home as the floodwaters rushed in.
Fast forward eight months and the restaurant is now experiencing better times.
Chris Lockhart and fellow co-owner and chef Danny Mowatt have both been nominated for James Beard Foundation Best Chef in the Mountain Region.
It's their second nomination in as many years.
“To get it the second year running, only being open five years, with everything going on, it’s crazy," Lockhart said. "It feels like a dream sometimes."
Mowatt echoed his excitement and said they owe a lot of their success to the community of Red Lodge.
“We want the community to be proud of us because we love being here," Mowatt said. "We love this town so much."
And that love was apparent this summer.
Prerogative Kitchen stayed open throughout the flooding, even offering free meals and gift cards to those in need.
“For the town to love us, as much as we love them, it just shows that we’ve tried and we’ve pushed," Mowatt said. "And we’re getting some recognition for it."
That small-town atmosphere is a big part of how Lockhart ended up in Red Lodge.
Originally from England, he and his wife moved to Montana for what they thought would be a one-year stay.
“We just discovered it was a really cool community that was very welcoming, very friendly," Lockhart said. "We realized we could make an indent in the food industry here."
After five years of owning their first restaurant, they've done much more than that.
Not only winning awards for their food but serving the community in ways that extend far beyond a quality meal.
“Being nominated for the James Beard award, I think it's for the whole community because this whole community does so well working together,” Lockhart said.
“It’s been a crazy journey, but when you look back, we just keep moving forward," Mowatt said. "I just want to thank the community for having our backs and we’ll try to always have theirs."
Also nominated for Best Chef in the Mountain Region was Andy Blanton of Cafe Kandahar in Whitefish and Earl James Reynolds of Stone Hill Kitchen and Bar in Bigfork.
Grist Milling & Bakery in Missoula has been nominated for Outstanding Bakery — a new category.
The James Beard Foundation notes the category, "recognizes a baker of breads, pastries, or desserts that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations while contributing positively to its broader community."