The James Beard Foundation continued to shake up the roster of nominees for its annual Restaurant and Chef Awards, with just 11 of those named last year among the 115 nominees for 2023 that were named Wednesday.
Additionally, some of the categories have changed. The previous categories of Outstanding Pastry Chef and outstanding baker are now one category, outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker, but a new category of Outstanding Bakery has added. And the Outstanding Wine Program award has been renamed Outstanding Wine or Other Beverage Program.
The foundation took the time over the course of the pandemic to reevaluate and restructure the awards, adding a component of social responsibility in the wake of past winners being accused of inappropriate sexual conduct, creating toxic work environments, and other harmful behavior.
In this new era, nominations for the awards must be accompanied by a short statement about how the candidate “is aligned with one or more of the Awards mission and the Foundation’s values — centered around creating a more equitable, sustainable, and healthy work culture,” according to the foundation.
The foundation also reworked who was allowed to vote on the awards. In the past, anyone who had ever won a Restaurant or Chef Award was eligible to vote on semifinalists and nominees indefinitely. Now only winners from the past three years are eligible, and that eligibility isn’t automatic: They must be chosen by the Beard Foundation’s awards committee. The roster of members of the food media who are allowed to vote has also been reworked.
The result is a more varied list of chefs, restaurateurs and beverage professionals, including those from cities less known for their contributions to the culinary world.
First held in 1990 as a booze cruise around Manhattan, the awards have grown in prestige over the years as they moved to the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York, and then Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center in New York and, since 2015, the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
The profile of the Beard Awards grew as food and restaurants became more central to American culture, and what was once a feel-good event to celebrate mostly the fine-dining world came to be taken more seriously; the James Beard Awards came to be referred to as the “Oscars” of the restaurant world.
With the higher prestige came more scrutiny, and the awards came to be criticized for being too insular, focused on a network of established restaurateurs with limited recognition of newcomers. That criticism and the social justice movements of recent years helped to prompt the changes in the Beard Awards.
Of note among this year’s nominees, only one of the nominees for Outstanding Restaurant, Copine in Seattle, is in one of the traditional culinary strongholds that garner most of the awards.
In the regional awards, no chefs from the San Francisco are among the nominees for Best Chef in California, with the closest chefs being Kyle and Katina Connaughton of SingleThread in the Sonoma Valley city of Healdsburg, Calif. The other nominees are from Southern California.
In the Best Chef in the Great Lakes category, usually dominated by Chicago, Detroit got more nominees than that city this year.
In the Mountain states, which was dominated by the Denver area last year, two nominees this year are from Idaho and only one is from Colorado.
Two Oklahoma City chefs got Best Chef in the Southwest nominations, up from zero last year.
In that same category, Justin Pioche of Pioche Food Group is the first nominee from the Navajo Nation.
The 11 nominees returning from last year are Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group in Philadelphia for Outstanding Restaurateur, Serigne Mbaye of Dakar NOLA in New Orleans for Emerging Chef (which until last year was called Rising Star Chef), Zak Stern of Zak the Baker in Miami, who last year was nominated for Outstanding Baker and this year the bakery itself is nominated for Outstanding Bakery, Margarita Manzke of République in Los Angeles for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker, Omar Anani of Saffron De Twah in Detroit for Best Chef in the Great Lakes, Jesse Ito of Royal Sushi and Chutatip Suntaranon of Kalaya, both in Philadelphia, both for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic, Gregory León of Amilinda in Milwaukee for best chef in the Midwest, Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy and Junghyun Park of Atomix, both in New York City, both for Best Chef in New York State, and Thomas Pisha-Duffly of Gado Gado in Portland, Ore., for Best Chef in the Northwest and Pacific.
The winners of the awards will be announced at a gala ceremony at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, June 5.
The complete list of Restaurant and Chef Awards nominees is below.
Rachel Miller, Nightshade Noodle Bar, Lynn, Mass
Niki Nakayama, n/naka, Los Angeles
Erik Ramirez, Llama Inn, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Rob Rubba, Oyster Oyster, Washington, D.C.
Hajime Sato, Sozai, Clawson, Mich.
Coracora, West Hartford, Conn.
Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia
Best New Restaurant
Causa, Washington, D.C.
Dept of Culture, New York City
Don Artemio Mexican Heritage, Fort Worth, Texas
Kann, Portland, Ore.
Lupi & Iris, Milwaukee, Wis.
Neng Jr.'s, Asheville, N.C.
Restaurant Beatrice, Dallas
Brandon Chrostowski, Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute (Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute, Edwins too, Edwins Bakery, and others), Cleveland
Greg Dulan, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Dulan's on Crenshaw, and Dulanville, Los Angeles
Aaron Hoskins, Sarah Simmons, and Elie Yigo, City Grit Hospitality Group (smallSugar, City Grit, and Il Focolare Pizzeria), Columbia, S.C.
Yenvy and Quynh Pham, Phở Bắc Sup Shop, Phởcific Standard Time, and The Boat, Seattle
Ellen Yin, High Street Hospitality Group (Fork, a.kitchen + bar, High Street, and others), Philadelphia
Damarr Brown, Virtue, Chicago
Rashida Holmes, Bridgetown Roti, Los Angeles
Serigne Mbaye, Dakar NOLA, New Orleans
Charlie Mitchell, Clover Hill, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Amanda Shulman, Her Place Supper Club, Philadelphia
Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confectionery, New Orleans
La Casita Bakeshop, Richardson, Texas
Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas
Yoli Tortilleria, Kansas City, Mo.
Zak the Baker, Miami
Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker
Veronika Gerasimova, Veronika's Pastry Shop, Billings, Mont.
Elaine Uykimpang Bentz, Café Mochiko, Cincinnati
Vince Bugtong, Abaca, San Francisco
Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles
Shawn McKenzie, Café Cerés, Minneapolis
The Black Cypress, Pullman, Wash
Bottega, Birmingham, Ala.
Lula Drake, Columbia, S.C.
The Quarry, Monson, Maine
Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program
Cote, New York City
Lazy Bear, San Francisco
Nancy's Hustle, Houston, TX
Ototo, Los Angeles
Spencer, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Bar Leather Apron, Honolulu, Hawaii
Drastic Measures, Shawnee, Kan.
Garagiste Wine Room | Merchant, Las Vegas
Las Ramblas, Brownsville, Texas
Rob Roy, Seattle
Best Chef: California
Gilberto Cetina Jr., Holbox, Los Angeles
Kyle and Katina Connaughton, SingleThread, Healdsburg
Brandon Hayato Go, Hayato, Los Angeles
Justin Pichetrungsi, Anajak Thai, Sherman Oaks
Carlos Salgado, Taco María, Costa Mesa
Best Chef: Great Lakes (Ill., Ind., Mich., and Ohio)
Omar Anani, Saffron De Twah, Detroit
Diana Dávila, Mi Tocaya Antojería, Chicago
Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, Kasama, Chicago
Andy Hollyday, Selden Standard, Detroit
Sarah Welch, Marrow, Detroit
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., Del., Md., N.J., Pa., and Va.)
Jesse Ito, Royal Sushi, Philadelphia
Dionicio Jiménez, Cantina La Martina, Philadelphia
Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, Apteka, Pittsburgh
Michael Rafidi, Albi, Washington, D.C.
Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Kalaya, Philadelphia
Best Chef: Midwest (Iowa., Kan., Minn., Mo., Neb., N.D., S.D., and Wis.)
Sanaa Abourezk, Sanaa's Gourmet Mediterranean, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Gregory León, Amilinda, Milwaukee, Wis.
Francesco Mangano, Osteria Papavero, Madison, Wis.
Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger, Fairchild, Madison, Wis.
David Utterback, Yoshitomo, Omaha, Neb.
Best Chef: Mountain (Colo., Idaho, Mont., Utah, and Wyo.)
Salvador Alamilla, Amano, Caldwell, Idaho
Michael Diaz de Leon, Brutø, Denver
Suchada Johnson, Teton Thai, Teton Village, Wyo.
Kris Komori, Kin, Boise, Idaho
Ali Sabbah, Mazza, Salt Lake City, Utah
Best Chef: New York State
Nasim Alikhani, Sofreh, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mary Attea, The Musket Room, New York City
Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy, New York City
Shaina Loew-Banayan, Cafe Mutton, Hudson, N.Y.
Junghyun Park, Atomix, New York City
Best Chef: Northeast (Conn., Mass., Maine, N.H., R.I., and Vt.)
Valentine Howell, Krasi, Boston
Christian Hunter, Community Table, New Preston, Conn.
Sherry Pocknett, Sly Fox Den Too, Charlestown, R.I.
Yisha Siu, Yunnan Kitchen, Boston
Renee Touponce, The Port of Call, Mystic, Conn.
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Alaska, Hawaii, Ore., and Wash.)
Joshua Dorcak, Mäs, Ashland, Ore.
Vince Nguyen, Berlu, Portland
Thomas Pisha-Duffly, Gado Gado, Portland
Beau Schooler, In Bocca Al Lupo, Juneau, Alaska
Aaron Verzosa, Archipelago, Seattle
Best Chef: Southeast (Ga., Ky., N.C., S.C., Tenn., and W.Va.)
Sam Fore, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, Lexington, Ky.
Josh Habiger, Bastion, Nashville
Sam Hart, Counter-, Charlotte
Terry Koval, The Deer and the Dove, Decatur, Ga.
Paul Smith, 1010 Bridge, Charleston, W.Va.
Best Chef: South (Ala., Ark., Fla., La., Miss., and Puerto Rico)
Ana Castro, Lengua Madre, New Orleans
Timothy Hontzas, Johnny's Restaurant, Homewood, Ala.
Henry Moso, Kabooki Sushi, Orlando
Alex Perry and Kumi Omori, Vestige, Ocean Springs, Miss.
Natalia Vallejo, Cocina al Fondo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Best Chef: Southwest (Ariz. N.M., Nevada, and Okla.)
Oscar Amador, Anima by EDO, Las Vegas
Kaoru Azeuchi, Kaiseki Yuzu, Las Vegas
Andrew Black, Grey Sweater, Oklahoma City
Jeff Chanchaleune, Ma Der Lao Kitchen, Oklahoma City
Justin Pioche, Pioche Food Group, Upper Fruitland (Doolkai), Navajo Nation, N.M.
Best Chef: Texas
Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas
Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston
Emiliano Marentes, Elemi, El Paso
John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio
Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin
The writer of this article is a previous judge in the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards. Read further analysis here.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]