A Philadelphia restaurant with an eight-course tasting menu, a Haitian restaurant in the Pacific Northwest and a chef who focuses on a sustainable menu of oysters and wild vegetables in Washington, D.C., were three of the big winners at the 2023 James Beard Awards, widely considered the Oscars of the food world.
The awards were broadcast Monday night from the Lyric Opera of Chicago on livestream via the website Eater. The awards have been presented in the Windy City since 2015 and are set to remain there through 2027.
Co-hosts of the show were Eric Adjepong, Esther Choi, Andrew Zimmern and Gail Simmons, who apologized at the top of the show for being part of a combative and off-putting tone set by reality TV cooking shows that created “a generation of total monsters” who then went to restaurants with proclamations such as “that ramp butter needs more acid” and used the term “flavor profile.”
But “tonight is not about the negative. It’s about celebrating chefs and the industry we love so much,” Simmons said.
Like last year, much of the 2023 show was focused on showcasing the new push for greater diversity. That included casting a wider net geographically with winners from the likes of Boise, Idaho; Madison, Wisconsin; Oklahoma City; and the small town of Monson, Maine.
Gregory Gourdet of Kann, winner of Best New Restaurant, said: “Today I stand the son of Haitian immigrants, a son of my ancestors and a member of a team 45 people deep who are committed to telling the story of Haiti and its contributions to the culinary arts and to American culture and to global culture all together. … We hope to stand as an example that paying people fairly, having diverse and mixed-gender teams is not just equitable but effective.”
Sherry Pocknett of Sly Fox Den Too in Charlestown, Rhode Island, became the first Indigenous woman to win a James Beard.
Numerous Asian Americans were recognized with James Beards, including Ellen Yin as outstanding restaurateur.
Showcasing the influence of the awards, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson made appearances at the broadcast.
Controversy around the awards
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.
The James Beard Foundation has been mired in controversy over the past few years.
The awards in many key categories were abruptly called off in 2020 amid the industry’s pandemic upheaval and ethics and diversity issues among nominees, and they remained on pause in 2021 during the foundation’s work on a new awards framework.
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.
This year, the process used to vet bad behavior has generated its own controversy, with one chef, Timothy Hontzas, revealing that he has been disqualified and another, Sam Fore, telling The New York Times that she was investigated but not disqualified. Some in the industry have criticized the secrecy around the ethics process, which has already led to upheaval among the awards’ judges and committee members.
The controversy was acknowledged during the broadcast. “This category has brought more drama than a Mariah Carey concert,” said TV host Monti Carlo before announcing the best chef: South, category. Hontzas’ name was read with alongside those of the other nominees during the show.
The winner of the South category, Natalia Vallejo, is the first Puerto Rican native to win a James Beard Award.
The foundation has defended its new ethics procedures.
“This process was designed to protect the integrity of the Awards and its mission, while being fair to those it seeks to celebrate,” the foundation said in a statement to CNN.
“We stand by this process, which reflects our values and the overall mission of the Foundation: to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.”
In 2023, the structure of the voting body has been tweaked, combining scouting and tasting duties for the judges.
Here’s the full list of the 2023 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards nominees. The winners in each category are listed in bold.
James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards
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
Brandon Chrostowski, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute (EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, edwins too, EDWINS Bakery, and others), Cleveland, OH
Greg Dulan, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Dulan’s on Crenshaw, and Dulanville, Los Angeles, CA
Aaron Hoskins, Sarah Simmons, and Elie Yigo, CITY GRIT Hospitality Group (smallSUGAR, CITY GRIT, Il Focolare Pizzeria), Columbia, SC
Yenvy and Quynh Pham, Phở Bắc Sup Shop, Phởcific Standard Time, The Boat, Seattle, WA
Ellen Yin, High Street Hospitality Group (Fork, a.kitchen + bar, High Street, and others), Philadelphia, PA
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
The Black Cypress, Pullman, WA
Bottega, Birmingham, AL
Lula Drake, Columbia, SC
The Quarry, Monson, ME
Sepia, Chicago, IL
Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program
COTE, New York, NY
Lazy Bear, San Francisco, CA
Nancy’s Hustle, Houston, TX
OTOTO, Los Angeles, CA
Spencer, Ann Arbor, MI
Bar Leather Apron, Honolulu, HI
Drastic Measures, Shawnee, KS
Garagiste Wine Room | Merchant, Las Vegas, NV
Las Ramblas, Brownsville, TX
Rob Roy, Seattle, WA
BEST CHEFS (by region)
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
(All nominees in this category were recognized on stage)
Jim Embry, Sustainable Communities Network, Slow Food USA, and Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance
Valerie Horn, CANE Kitchen, Cowan Community Center, and City of Whitesburg Farmers Market
Savonala “Savi” Horne, Land Loss Prevention Project
Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Rowen White, Sierra Seeds
Emerging Leadership: The Burgerville Workers Union
Humanitarian of the Year Award
Co-founders of the Black Farmer Fund: social entrepreneur and impact investor Olivia Watkins, and farmer and activist Karen Washington
Lifetime Achievement Award
Madur Jaffrey CBE, cookbook author, writer, teacher and actress.