By Marnie Hunter, CNN
House-cured meat and handmade pasta, a three-course American menu where French techniques shine and a seasonally inspired eight-course tasting menu are among the offerings from the nominees for one of the culinary world’s highest honors — the James Beard Awards.
The James Beard Foundation announced the finalists for the 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards on Wednesday in Nashville. The winners in the restaurant and chef categories will be revealed on June 5 during a ceremony at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
For many in the US industry, the recognition comes on the heels of several challenging years.
“It was a horrible last few years, and it was very difficult for restaurants and we all did the best we could. And I think we’re all kind of shell-shocked and grateful to still be here,” said Jennifer Uygur, who co-owns Outstanding Restaurant nominee Lucia in Dallas with her husband, chef David Uygur.
Uygur said the category her restaurant was nominated in is especially meaningful in light of tough times during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think the coolest thing about this one is that it’s for Outstanding Restaurant, and it’s the whole team … we can’t do it without front of the house, back of the house, everybody, to make the whole experience.”
That sense of teamwork was echoed by the owners of Copine, a Seattle restaurant that turns out contemporary American cuisine using classical French techniques.
“You just realize community and staff is really everything,” said Jill Kinney, who runs Copine with her husband, chef Shaun McCrain. “I mean you can’t do it on your own.”
Lucia and Copine are joined by three more finalists in the Outstanding Restaurant category: Coracora in West Hartford, Connecticut, Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia and Mita’s in Cincinnati.
Recent changes to the awards
Finalists were named across more than 20 categories, including the new Award for Outstanding Bakery. Two bakeries in Texas — La Casita Bakeshop in Richardson and Kuluntu Bakery in Dallas — are among the five finalists in that category.
“The James Beard Awards celebrate outstanding achievement and exceptional culinary talent, as well as all those doing incredible work on behalf of our communities and wider food system. This year’s nominees, winners and honorees are inspiring exemplars of that,” said Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation.
Last year’s awards marked the first bestowed under new policies and procedures and a new code of ethics sparked by allegations of chefs’ bad behavior and a lack of diversity.
Many in the industry hope restaurant culture is changing, too.
Chad Williams, chef at Outstanding Restaurant finalist Friday Saturday Sunday, said in an interview Wednesday that there is an opportunity for leaders to think about what they went through coming up the ranks, “and making sure other people don’t have to necessarily go through that.”
“I came up in Michelin-star kitchens and … they were aggressive and much of what made them great was not the attitudes that were pushed there … there’s other ways to do it,” Williams said.
“As we try to maintain our reputation and put out great food, there’s also people behind that who you have to take care of.”
The awards in many key categories were abruptly called off in 2020 and remained on pause in 2021 amid the industry’s pandemic upheaval and the foundation’s work on the new framework.
In 2023, the structure of the voting body has been tweaked, combining scouting and tasting duties for the judges.
The nonprofit James Beard Foundation was established more than 30 years ago, shortly after “pioneer foodie” James Beard’s death, “to celebrate, support and elevate the people behind America’s food culture.”
The first awards ceremony was held in 1991.
Beard was the host of “I Love to Eat,” the first food program on network television in 1946 and was called the “Dean of American Cookery” by The New York Times in 1954.
Select 2023 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards finalists
Rachel Miller, Nightshade Noodle Bar, Lynn, MA
Niki Nakayama, n/naka, Los Angeles, CA
Erik Ramirez, Llama Inn, Brooklyn, NY
Rob Rubba, Oyster Oyster, Washington, D.C.
Hajime Sato, Sozai, Clawson, MI
Copine, Seattle, WA
Coracora, West Hartford, CT
Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia, PA
Lucia, Dallas, TX
Mita’s, Cincinnati, OH
Best New Restaurant
Causa, Washington, D.C.
Dept of Culture, New York, NY
Don Artemio Mexican Heritage, Fort Worth, TX
Kann, Portland, OR
Lupi & Iris, Milwaukee, WI
Neng Jr.’s, Asheville, NC
Nolia, Cincinnati, OH
Obélix, Chicago, IL
Restaurant Beatrice, Dallas, TX
Tatemó, Houston, TX
Damarr Brown, Virtue, Chicago, IL
Rashida Holmes, Bridgetown Roti, Los Angeles, CA
Serigne Mbaye, Dakar NOLA, New Orleans, LA
Charlie Mitchell, Clover Hill, Brooklyn, NY
Amanda Shulman, Her Place Supper Club, Philadelphia, PA
Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confectionery, New Orleans, LA
La Casita Bakeshop, Richardson, TX
Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas, TX
Yoli Tortilleria, Kansas City, MO
Zak the Baker, Miami, FL
Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker
Veronika Gerasimova, Veronika’s Pastry Shop, Billings, MT
Elaine Uykimpang Bentz, Café Mochiko, Cincinnati, OH
Vince Bugtong, ABACA, San Francisco, CA
Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles, CA
Shawn McKenzie, Café Cerés, Minneapolis, MN
Best Chef: California
Gilberto Cetina Jr., Holbox, Los Angeles, CA
Kyle and Katina Connaughton, SingleThread, Healdsburg, CA
Brandon Hayato Go, Hayato, Los Angeles, CA
Justin Pichetrungsi, Anajak Thai, Sherman Oaks, CA
Carlos Salgado, Taco María, Costa Mesa, CA
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Omar Anani, Saffron De Twah, Detroit, MI
Diana Dávila, Mi Tocaya Antojería, Chicago, IL
Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, Kasama, Chicago, IL
Andy Hollyday, Selden Standard, Detroit, MI
Sarah Welch, Marrow, Detroit, MI
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Jesse Ito, Royal Sushi, Philadelphia, PA
Dionicio Jiménez, Cantina La Martina, Philadelphia, PA
Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, Apteka, Pittsburgh, PA
Michael Rafidi, Albi, Washington, D.C.
Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Kalaya, Philadelphia, PA
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Sanaa Abourezk, Sanaa’s Gourmet Mediterranean, Sioux Falls, SD
Gregory León, Amilinda, Milwaukee, WI
Francesco Mangano, Osteria Papavero, Madison, WI
Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger, Fairchild, Madison, WI
David Utterback, Yoshitomo, Omaha, NE
Best Chef: Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY)
Salvador Alamilla, Amano, Caldwell, ID
Michael Diaz de Leon, BRUTØ, Denver, CO
Suchada Johnson, Teton Thai, Teton Village, WY
Kris Komori, KIN, Boise, ID
Ali Sabbah, Mazza, Salt Lake City, UT
Best Chef: New York State
Nasim Alikhani, Sofreh, Brooklyn, NY
Mary Attea, The Musket Room, New York, NY
Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy, New York, NY
Shaina Loew-Banayan, Cafe Mutton, Hudson, NY
Junghyun Park, Atomix, New York, NY
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)
Valentine Howell, Krasi, Boston, MA
Christian Hunter, Community Table, New Preston, CT
Sherry Pocknett, Sly Fox Den Too, Charlestown, RI
Yisha Siu, Yunnan Kitchen, Boston, MA
Renee Touponce, The Port of Call, Mystic, CT
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA)
Joshua Dorcak, MÄS, Ashland, OR
Vince Nguyen, Berlu, Portland, OR
Thomas Pisha-Duffly, Gado Gado, Portland, OR
Beau Schooler, In Bocca Al Lupo, Juneau, AK
Aaron Verzosa, Archipelago, Seattle, WA
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Sam Fore, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, Lexington, KY
Josh Habiger, Bastion, Nashville, TN
Sam Hart, Counter-, Charlotte, NC
Terry Koval, The Deer and the Dove, Decatur, GA
Paul Smith, 1010 Bridge, Charleston, WV
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR)
Ana Castro, Lengua Madre, New Orleans, LA
Timothy Hontzas, Johnny’s Restaurant, Homewood, AL
Henry Moso, Kabooki Sushi, Orlando, FL
Alex Perry and Kumi Omori, Vestige, Ocean Springs, MS
Natalia Vallejo, Cocina al Fondo, San Juan, PR
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)
Oscar Amador, Anima by EDO, Las Vegas, NV
Kaoru Azeuchi, KAISEKI YUZU, Las Vegas, NV
Andrew Black, Grey Sweater, Oklahoma City, OK
Jeff Chanchaleune, Ma Der Lao Kitchen, Oklahoma City, OK
Justin Pioche, Pioche Food Group, Upper Fruitland (Doolkai), Navajo Nation, NM
Best Chef: Texas
Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas, TX
Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston, TX
Emiliano Marentes, ELEMI, El Paso, TX
John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio, TX
Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin, TX
See the James Beard Foundation website for the full list of 2023 finalists, including Outstanding Restaurateur, Outstanding Hospitality, Outstanding Bar and Outstanding Wine and Beverages.
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