Have you been to Majordomo in Los Angeles, Frenchette in Tribeca or Angler in San Francisco yet? Those already-hot restaurants just got a little hotter with today’s announcement of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award finalists, the so-called “Oscars of Food.”
That trio—led by David Chang, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, and Joshua Skenes, respectively— are among the five nominees vying to be named the country’s Best New Restaurant, along with Junghyun and Ellia Park’s Atomix in New York City and Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’s Bavel in LA.
In the Outstanding Chef category, the finalists are Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Raleigh), David Kinch (Manresa in Los Gatos, CA), Corey Lee (Benu, San Francisco), Donald Link (Herbsaint, New Orleans), and Marc Vetri (Vetri Cucina, Philadelphia). That category is for chefs who have been working for at least the past five years; the 2019 finalists have 74 previous nominations (including appearances on the semi-finalist long list, as well as book and media awards) between them.
For Outstanding Restaurant (places that have been in business 10 years or more), the contenders are Balthazar (New York City), FIG (Charleston, SC), Jaleo (Washington, D.C.), Quince (San Francisco) and Zahav (Philadelphia). Balthazar, of course, is the Keith McNally restaurant where Frenchette’s Nasr and Hanson made their name, while Jaleo is the O.G. Jose Andres tapas spot, dating back to 1993 (he now has 31 restaurants, the World Central Kitchen charity, and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination).
This year’s crop is vying to join 2018’s top winners, Seattle’s JuneBaby (Best New Restaurant), Prune’s Gabrielle Hamilton (Outstanding Chef) and the Highlands Bar and Grill in Alabama (Outstanding Restaurant).
These are the first awards since the James Beard Foundation announced plans to make its judges and awards committee more diverse. That led to “a 14 percent increase in representation of people of color on the judging panels, as well as a five percent increase in female judges” (counting both the restaurant and media categories) according to Food and Wine. Starting in 2018, the judging criteria has also gone beyond just food and service to include “the values of respect, transparency, diversity, sustainability and equality.”
As is typically the case, the regional categories cover a wider range of food and chefs than the national awards; in New York City, for instance, former Del Posto pastry chef Brooks Headley of Superiority Burger is competing with the likes of Atla’s Daniela Soto-Innes and Via Carota’s Jody Williams and Rita Sodia. While in the Mid-Atlantic, Tom Cunanan of mega-hot D.C. Filipino restaurant Bad Saint is up against Cristina Martinez of limited-hours Chef’s Table favorite South Philly Barbacoa.
And while the five boroughs have their own category, Chicago took every finalist spot in the Great Lakes (at the expense of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana), while Los Angeles dominated the West, with Michael Cimarusti (Providence), Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon), Jessica Koslow (Sqirl) and Travis Lett (Gjelina) joining multiple-nominee Joshua Skenes (for his fine-dining spot Saison. And Skenes will be in L.A. soon enough (with a second Angler). Sorry, all the rest of California (and Hawaii and Nevada). But at least you’ve got your Michelin Guide!
The winners will step to the podium at a gala awards ceremony in Chicago on May 6, hosted by Modern Family and Fully Committed actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. But it truly is an honor just to be nominated, especially since you get to add “James Beard Award finalist” to your website bio.
Best New Restaurant
A restaurant opened in 2018 that already demonstrates excellence in cuisine and hospitality, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
- Angler, San Francisco
- Atomix, NYC
- Bavel, Los Angeles
- Frenchette, NYC
- Majordomo, Los Angeles
A pastry chef or baker who demonstrates exceptional skill, integrity, and character in the preparation of desserts, pastries, or breads served in a retail bakery. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.
- Zachary Golper, Bien Cuit, NYC
- Maura Kilpatrick, Sofra Bakery and Café, Cambridge, MA
- Lisa Ludwinski, Sister Pie, Detroit
- Avery Ruzicka, Manresa Bread, Los Gatos, CA
- Greg Wade, Publican Quality Bread, Chicago
Outstanding Bar Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates exceptional care and skill in the selection, preparation, and serving of cocktails, spirits, and/or beer.
- Bar Agricole, San Francisco
- Dead Rabbit, NYC
- Kimball House, Decatur, GA
- Lost Lake, Chicago
- Ticonderoga Club, Atlanta
A chef who sets high culinary standards and who has served as a positive example for other food professionals. Must have been working as a chef for the past five years.
- Ashley Christensen, Poole’s Diner, Raleigh, NC
- David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA
- Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco
- Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans
- Marc Vetri, Vetri Cucina, Philadelphia
Outstanding Pastry Chef
A pastry chef or baker who demonstrates exceptional skill, integrity, and character in the preparation of desserts, pastries, or breads served in a restaurant. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.
- Juan Contreras, Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
- Kelly Fields, Willa Jean, New Orleans
- Meg Galus, Boka, Chicago
- Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles
- Pichet Ong, Brothers and Sisters, Washington, D.C.
A restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, service, and operations. Must have been in business 10 or more consecutive years.
- Balthazar, NYC
- FIG, Charleston, SC
- Jaleo, Washington, D.C.
- Quince, San Francisco
- Zahav, Philadelphia
A restaurateur who demonstrates creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operations. Must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Must not have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.
- Hugh Acheson, Atlanta (Empire State South, Five & Ten, The National, and others)
- Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, Boka Restaurant Group, Chicago (Boka, Girl & the Goat, Momotaro, and others)
- JoAnn Clevenger, Upperline, New Orleans
- Ken Oringer, Boston (Little Donkey, Toro, Uni, and others)
- Alex Raij and Eder Montero, NYC (La Vara, Txikito, Saint Julivert Fisherie, and others)
- Ellen Yin, High Street Hospitality Group, Philadelphia (Fork, High Street on Market, High Street on Hudson)
A restaurant in operation for five or more years that demonstrates consistency and exceptional thoughtfulness in hospitality and service.
- Brigtsen’s, New Orleans
- Canlis, Seattle
- Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, CO
- Saison, San Francisco
- Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
- Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, MI
Outstanding Wine Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in wine service through a carefully considered wine list and a well-informed approach to helping customers choose and drink wine.
- Bacchanal, New Orleans
- Benu, San Francisco
- Miller Union, Atlanta
- Night + Market, Los Angeles
- Spiaggia, Chicago
Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer
A beer, wine, or spirits producer who demonstrates consistency and exceptional skill in his or her craft.
- Cathy Corison, Corison Winery, St. Helena, CA
- Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell, High Wire Distilling Co., Charleston, SC
- Steve Matthiasson, Matthiasson Wines, Napa, CA
- Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME
- Lance Winters, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA
Rising Star Chef of the Year
A chef age 30 or younger who displays exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
- Ana Castro, Coquette, New Orleans
- Alisha Elenz, MFK, Chicago
- Alexander Hong, Sorrel, San Francisco
- Jesse Ito, Royal Izakaya, Philadelphia
- Kwame Onwuachi, Kith and Kin, Washington, D.C.
- Jonathan Yao, Kato, Los Angeles
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
- Diana Dávila, Mi Tocaya Antojería, Chicago
- Jason Hammel, Lula Café, Chicago
- Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, Parachute, Chicago
- David Posey and Anna Posey, Elske, Chicago
- Noah Sandoval, Oriole, Chicago
- Lee Wolen, Boka, Chicago
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
- Amy Brandwein, Centrolina, Washington, D.C.
- Tom Cunanan, Bad Saint, Washington, D.C.
- Rich Landau, Vedge, Philadelphia
- Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia
- Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
- Michael Corvino, Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, Kansas City, MO
- Michael Gallina, Vicia, St. Louis
- Ann Kim, Young Joni, Minneapolis
- Jamie Malone, Grand Café, Minneapolis
- Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai, Minneapolis
Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)
- Sean Gray, Momofuku Ko
- Brooks Headley, Superiority Burger
- Daniela Soto-Innes, Atla
- Alex Stupak, Empellón Midtown
- Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, Via Carota
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY State, RI, VT)
- Tiffani Faison, Tiger Mama, Boston
- James Mark, North, Providence
- Tony Messina, Uni, Boston
- Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, MA
- Benjamin Sukle, Oberlin, Providence
Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
- Peter Cho, Han Oak, Portland, OR
- Katy Millard, Coquine, Portland, OR
- Brady Williams, Canlis, Seattle
- Justin Woodward, Castagna, Portland, OR
- Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, FL, LA, MS)
- Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS
- Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR
- Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans
- Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans
- Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
- Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, GA
- Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC
- Cassidee Dabney, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
- Ryan Smith, Staplehouse, Atlanta
- Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)
- Charleen Badman, FnB, Scottsdale, AZ
- Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye, Austin
- Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie, Austin
- Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin
- Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio