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This year’s roster features mostly new names and a more diverse makeup than in previous years.

James Beard Foundation names restaurant and chef award nominees

A more diverse roster highlights changes in the process

The James Beard Foundation kept true to its promise to highlight a more diverse group in its annual Restaurant and Chef Awards, the nominees of which were announced Wednesday.

Past awards had been criticized for being spread around the same comparatively small network of established chefs with good reputations among the media and their protégés, with the same nominees returning year after year until they won.

This year’s roster features mostly new names and a more diverse makeup than in previous years, albeit still mostly concentrated in established restaurant cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

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, where it was moved in an attempt to reposition the foundation and their awards as less New York-centric.

The profile of the Beard Awards grew as food and restaurants became more central to American culture over the past couple of decades, 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 expansion of the #MeToo movement exposing improper sexual behavior in workplaces and professions, past Beard Award winners such as Mario Batali and John Besh became embroiled in scandal that tainted the awards themselves. The Beard Awards also came under pressure to recognize a more diverse group.

The onset of the pandemic and its devastating effect on restaurants caused the foundation to essentially cancel the awards in 2020 and 2021, replaced by broader celebrations of the industry.

The foundation also took the time to rework the criteria for the award as well as shakeup the panels of judges who voted on them.

Now 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.

Also, 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. Only winners from 2017 and later were eligible to be judges for this list of nominees.

Additionally, the Rising Star Chef award, which was given to a chef aged 30 or younger, has been changed to the Emerging Chef award with no age limitation.

The winners will be announced at the Lyric Opera on June 13 and will also be broadcast live on the Beard Foundations Twitter feed.

Below is the list of nominees.

Outstanding Restaurateur  

  • Ashok Bajaj, Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (Rasika, Bindaas, Annabelle, and others), Washington, D.C.
  • Chris Bianco, Tratto, Pane Bianco, and Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
  • Kevin Gillespie, Red Beard Restaurants (Gunshow and Revival), Atlanta
  • Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom (Langbaan, Hat Yai, Eem, and others), Portland, Ore.
  • Chris Williams, Lucille's Hospitality Group, Houston
  • Ellen Yin, High Street Hospitality Group (Fork, + bar, High Street Philly, and others), Philadelphia

Outstanding Chef  

  • Reem Assil, Reem's, Oakland and San Francisco
  • Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, Ga.
  • Peter Chang, Peter Chang, with locations in Va. and Md.
  • Jason Vincent, Giant, Chicago
  • Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle

Outstanding Restaurant  

  • Brennan's, New Orleans
  • Butcher & Bee, Charleston, S.C.
  • Chai Pani, Asheville, N.C.
  • Parachute, Chicago
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle

Emerging Chef

  • Angel Barreto, Anju, Washington, D.C.
  • Calvin Eng, Bonnie's, New York City
  • Cleophus Hethington, Benne on Eagle, Asheville, N.C.
  • Serigne Mbaye, Dakar Nola, New Orleans
  • Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria, Austin, Texas
  • Crystal Wahpepah, Wahpepah's Kitchen, Oakland, Calif.

Best New Restaurant 

  • Angry Egret Dinette, Los Angeles
  • Bacanora, Phoenix
  • Barda, Detroit
  • Dhamaka, New York City
  • Horn BBQ, Oakland, Calif.
  • Kasama, Chicago
  • Leeward, Portland, Maine
  • Owamni, Minneapolis
  • Oyster Oyster, Washington, D.C.
  • Roots Southern Table, Farmers Branch, Texas
  • Ursula, New York City

Outstanding Pastry Chef 

  • Warda Bouguettaya, Warda Pâtisserie, Detroit
  • Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles
  • Claudia Martinez, Miller Union, Atlanta
  • Ruben Ortega, Xochi, Houston
  • Caroline Schiff, Gage & Tollner, New York City

Outstanding Baker 

  • Maya-Camille Broussard, Justice of the Pies, Chicago
  • Atsuko Fujimoto, Norimoto Bakery, Portland, Maine
  • Don Guerra, Barrio Bread, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Caroline Schweitzer and Lauren Heemstra, Wild Crumb, Bozeman, Mont.
  • Zak Stern, Zak the Baker, Miami

Outstanding Hospitality

  • Cúrate, Asheville, N.C.
  • House of Prime Rib, San Francisco
  • Hugo's, Houston
  • Sylvia's Restaurant, New York City
  • Ticonderoga Club, Atlanta

Outstanding Wine Program 

  • The Four Horsemen, New York City
  • Frenchette, New York City
  • The Little Nell, Aspen, Colo.
  • Maydan, Washington, D.C.
  • Rebel Rebel, Somerville, Mass.

Outstanding Bar Program

  • Alley Twenty Six, Durham, N.C.
  • Attaboy, Nashville
  • Barmini by José Andrés, Washington, D.C.
  • Julep, Houston
  • Nobody's Darling, Chicago

Best Chef: California 

  • Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu's, San Francisco
  • Bryant Ng, Cassia, Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong, Jitlada, Los Angeles
  • James Syhabout, Commis, Oakland, Calif.
  • Pim Techamuanvivit, Nari, San Francisco

Best Chef: Great Lakes (Ill. Ind., Mich. and Ohio) 

  • Omar Anani, Saffron De Twah, Detroit
  • Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe, Chicago
  • Noah Sandoval, Oriole, Chicago
  • John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth, Chicago
  • Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant & Bar, Chicago

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., Del, Md., N.J., Pa. and Va.)  

  • Angel Barreto, Anju, Washington, D.C.
  • Amy Brandwein, Centrolina, Washington, D.C.
  • Jesse Ito, Royal Izakaya, Philadelphia
  • Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia
  • Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Kalaya Thai Kitchen, Philadelphia

Best Chef: Midwest (Iowa, Kan., Minn., Mo., Neb., N.D., S.D. and Wis.)  

  • Dane Baldwin, The Diplomat, Milwaukee
  • Karen Bell, Bavette La Boucherie, Milwaukee
  • Jorge Guzmán, Petite León, Minneapolis
  • Gregory León, Amilinda, Milwaukee
  • Sean Sherman, Owamni, Minneapolis
  • Yia Vang, Union Hmong Kitchen, Minneapolis

Best Chef: Mountain (Colo., Idaho, Mont., Utah and Wyo.) 

  • Jose Avila, El Borrego Negro, Denver
  • Cody Cheetham, Tavernetta, Denver
  • Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, Colo.
  • Dana Rodriguez, Work & Class, Denver
  • Eric Skokan, Black Cat Farm Table Bistro, Boulder, Colo.

Best Chef: New York State  

  • All nominees are in New York City
  • Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy
  • JJ Johnson, Fieldtrip
  • Ayesha Nurdjaja, Shuka
  • Chintan Pandya, Dhamaka
  • Junghyun Park, Atomix

Best Chef: Northeast (Conn., Mass., Maine, N.H., R.I. and Vt.) 

  • Vien Dobui, Công tử bột, Portland
  • Tiffani Faison, Orfano, Boston
  • Courtney Loreg, Woodford Food and Beverage, Portland
  • Nisachon Morgan, Saap, Randolph, Vt.
  • Damian Sansonetti, Chaval, Portland

Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Alaska, Hawaii, Ore. and Wash.)  

  • Carlo Lamagna, Magna Kusina, Portland
  • Robynne Maii, Fête, Honolulu
  • Thomas Pisha-Duffly, Oma's Hideaway, Portland
  • Sheldon Simeon, Tin Roof, Kahului, Hawaii
  • Mutsuko Soma, Kamonegi, Seattle

Best Chef: Southeast (Ga., Ky., N.C., S.C., Tenn. and W.Va.) 

  • Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, N.C
  • Greg Collier, Leah & Louise, Charlotte, N.C
  • Philip Krajeck, Rolf and Daughters, Nashville
  • Cheetie Kumar, Garland, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Ricky Moore, SALTBOX Seafood Joint, Durham, N.C.

Best Chef: South (Ala., Ark., Fla., La., Miss. and Puerto Rico)  

  • Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith, Saint-Germain, New Orleans
  • Adam Evans, Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, Ala.
  • Timothy Hontzas, Johnny’s Restaurant, Homewood, Ala
  • Melissa M. Martin, Mosquito Supper Club, New Orleans
  • Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans

Best Chef: Southwest (Ariz., N.M., Nev. and Okla.)  

  • Fernando Olea, Sazón, Santa Fe, N.M.
  • Martín Rios, Restaurant Martín, Santa Fe, N.M.
  • Salazar Brothers, La Guelaguetza, Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Giovanni Scorzo, Andreoli Italian Grocer, Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Jamie Tran, The Black Sheep, Las Vegas

Best Chef: Texas 

  • Tiffany Derry, Roots Southern Table, Farmers Branch
  • Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen, Xin Chào, Houston
  • Quy Hoang, Blood Bros. BBQ, Bellaire
  • Steven McHugh, Cured, San Antonio
  • Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo, Austin

The writer of this article is a previous judge in the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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