The Mashama Bailey of the Gray in Savannah, Georgia, was named Outstanding Chef, and Owamni by Sioux Chef in Minneapolis, owned by chefs Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson, was named Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Foundation Awards Monday night.
Hosted by Kwame Onwuachi, the establishment’s 2019 Rising Chef, took place at the Lyric Opera in Chicago around 1800, and is perhaps the most diverse group of nominees and winners to date.
“Today, a little black girl or a little black boy can see themselves as an outstanding chef in the future,” said the lady. Bailey, who won Best Chef: Southeast in 2019, accepted her award on Monday. “They can see themselves in a place they’ve never seen before, and do what they never thought possible. And even just a few minutes ago, it was me.”
The awards have been on hold for the past two years amid concerns about the diversity of finalists, accusations against the nominees, and the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector. After the turmoil of 2020 and 2021, the foundation said it had taken steps to reform its nomination and arbitration systems to make them more transparent.
Chai Pani in Asheville, North Carolina, has been named the outstanding restaurant. Chris Bianco of Tratto, Pane Bianco, and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix is named after the outstanding restaurateur.
The Emerging Chef award went to Edgar Rico of Nysta Taqueria in Austin, TX.
There are 12 regional awards given to the best chefs: Chintan Pandya of Dhamaka and Unapologetic Foods won Best Chef: New York State. Brandon Joy of Mr. Geo in San Francisco won Best Chef: California.
Warda Bouqtaya of Warda Sweets in Detroit was named Distinguished Pastry Chef, while Don Guerra of Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona was named Outstanding Baker.
The Four Horsemen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, were cited for their Outstanding Wine Program and Julep in Houston for their Outstanding Bar Program. Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina, received the Distinguished Hospitality Award.
Over the past two years, the awards have fizzled out due to controversy and infighting. In August 2020, the Foundation made the unusual decision not to name any James Beard winner for that year, except for a few that had already been announced. It was later reported that some of the nominated chefs had faced accusations of workplace misconduct, although the exact nature of those charges has not been made public.
Foundation staff, who are separated from the nomination and voting committees, raised concerns that no blacks would win any of the 23 award categories. One committee member told The New York Times in 2020: “The message came that they knew who the winners were, and that the winners did not It looks like they want them to look.”
The 20-member Restaurant Awards Committee prompted the establishment to acknowledge that a list of winners had been reached, which Claire Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, denied. “There was no final vote on the winners,” she said. The institution also announced at the time that no awards would be awarded in 2021, particularly due to the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant industry.
In 2021, the foundation also added a requirement that, in addition to culinary excellence, winners must demonstrate “a commitment to racial and gender equality, community, environmental sustainability, and a culture in which all can thrive.”
At the awards ceremony on Monday, A. “Tonight, in our recognition of outstanding food and beverage professionals, we are also honoring our entire industry and the incredible resilience, consistency, talent and leadership that so many have demonstrated over the past two years,” Reichenbach said.
Grace Young was named Humanitarian of the Year for her support of Chinatown across America. Martin Jan received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Among the American Classics award winners were Wo Hop, a Huang family-owned restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown that opened in 1938, and Solly’s Grille in Milwaukee.
The Restaurant & Chef Awards were established in 1990 and were first presented in New York in 1991. The festivities moved to Chicago in 2015.
Media and cookbook awards were presented on Saturday and This was followed by the Leadership Awards Ceremony, honoring social initiatives in the world of food, on Sunday.
The full list of awards is at jamesbeard.org.