At the Lyric Opera in Chicago on Monday, the American restaurant industry celebrated its biggest night. From around the country the best chefs and restaurateurs gathered for the James Beard Foundation Awards.
The big winners were Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson’s Frenchette, which took home Best New Restaurant, Ashley Christensen won Outstanding Chef, Michael Solomonov’s modern Israeli Zahav in Philadelphia was crowned Outstanding restaurant, and Kwame Onwuachi earned Rising Star honors. The Susan Lucci of the Beard Awards, Michael Cimarusti of Providence in Los Angeles finally won the award for Best Chef: West after nine nominations. Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm, the duo behind some of Chicago’s best restaurants, won Outstanding Restaurateur. And legendary Seattle restaurant Canlis took home two awards on the night, Best Chef: Northwest, and an award for its iconic design.
This was the first awards since the foundation revamped its voting body to encourage a more diverse pool of nominees. Historically, the people who voted for James Beard Awards were predominantly male and white. And not coincidentally, so were many of the winners over the years. The foundation is remedying this by mandating the judging panel’s makeup would reflect the country’s diversity, using the U.S. Census as a guide.
Even before the changes to the nominating committee happened, last year’s awards saw a marked increase in women and people of color winning chef awards. It was a huge step forward for the awards, but was it just an aberration?
“At last years awards I felt a sense of profound significance,” says Mitchell Davis, the James Beard Foundation’s chief strategy officer. “But I was also thinking, as my colleagues were, Oh my God, how do we operationalize this? How do we formalize this so it’s not just a one-off? Everyone’s reacting to what’s going on in the world, but we must make some substantive structural changes to ensure that this level of mindfulness, of inclusion and diversity continues and isn’t just a moment.”
This year’s awards again saw women and people of color take home major prizes, showing the Foundation and the industry’s commitment to inclusivity is continuing. In his speech, Onwuachi, who recently published the memoir Notes from a Young Black Chef, acknowledged the history of segregation in restaurants when he accepted his medal, “As I stand on this stage I understand that I have a job to do, we all do. We can include everyone in the conversation of cooking,” he said. “Fifty-four years ago, the last restaurant was integrated and Jim Crow was lifted. And here I am, my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
Check out the complete list of nominees and winners below.
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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
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) (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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. (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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. (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY State, RI, VT)
- Tiffani Faison, Tiger Mama, Boston
- James Mark, North, Providence
- Tony Messina, Uni, Boston (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- 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 (WINNER)
- Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye, Austin
- Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie, Austin
- Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin
- Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio