A bright light in the culinary world arrives today with the announcement of the 2020 James Beard Awards nominees. The awards are considered one of the highest honors possible in the food world, with this being the final list of nominees before the winners are announced on September 25. This short list of nominees was culled from the semifinalist list, put out in late February.
This round was originally set to be announced on March 25, but the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the event. Now, these nominations come during a turbulent time for the restaurant industry, which has all but shuddered to a halt in the face of dining room closures. But states have begun to lift restrictions, and restaurants are slowly coming back to life — some with a bit more prestige after this nomination round.
The James Beard Foundation, founded in 1986 in honor of late industry icon James Beard, has long been a place of distinction for chefs to cook at events in Beard’s New York City home. The awards arrived in 1991, and have continually recognized the food world’s best talent since.
But they almost didn’t happen this year. The Foundation debated canceling or postponing them, but after speaking with industry leaders, concluded that the awards could “offer a glimmer of hope to an industry looking for light in a very dark time.”
The nonprofit organization’s status during the pandemic has only risen. The Foundation shifted gears in the past couple of months to become a resource for the industry to gather, find information, and even get potentially business-saving grants. A relief fund created by the James Beard Foundation has raised more than $4 million for struggling restaurants.
The full list of 2020 nominees is below, and there are still ways to support them. Congratulations to all the chefs, restaurateurs, and restaurants involved!
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.
- Will Aghajanian and Liz Johnson, The Catbird Seat, Nashville
- Irene Li, Mei Mei, Boston
- Gaby Maeda, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
- Ashleigh Shanti, Benne on Eagle, Asheville, NC
- Paola Velez, Kith/Kin, Washington, D.C.
- Jon Yao, Kato, Los Angeles
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.
- Lincoln Carson, Bon Temps, Los Angeles
- Juan Contreras, Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
- Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles
- Diane Moua, Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis
- Natasha Pickowicz, Flora Bar, NYC
- Miro Uskokovic, Gramercy Tavern, NYC
A restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, service, and operations. Must have been in business 10 or more consecutive years.
- FIG, Charleston, SC
- Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, CO
- Jaleo, Washington, D.C.
- Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
- Quince, San Francisco
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.
- Paul Bartolotta, The Bartolotta Restaurants, Milwaukee (Ristorante Bartolotta, Harbor House, Lake Park Bistro, and others)
- Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer, JK Food Group, Boston (Little Donkey, Toro, Coppa)
- JoAnn Clevenger, Upperline Restaurant, New Orleans
- Alex Raij and Eder Montero, NYC (La Vara, Saint Julivert Fisherie, Txikito)
- Jason Wang, Xi’an Famous Foods, NYC
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
- Canard, Portland, OR
- COTE, NYC
- Miller Union, Atlanta
- Night + Market Sahm, Venice, CA
- Spiaggia, Chicago
Best New Restaurant
A restaurant opened in 2019 that already demonstrates excellence in cuisine and hospitality, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
- Automatic Seafood & Oysters, Birmingham, AL
- Demi, Minneapolis
- Eem, Portland, OR
- Fox & the Knife, Boston
- Gado Gado, Portland, OR
- Gianna, New Orleans
- Kalaya, Philadelphia
- Nightshade, Los Angeles
- Pasjoli, Santa Monica, CA
- Verjus, San Francisco
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.
- Graison Gill, Bellegarde Bakery, New Orleans
- Zachary Golper, Bien Cuit, NYC
- Maura Kilpatrick, Sofra Bakery, Cambridge, MA
- Lisa Ludwinski, Sister Pie, Detroit
- Avery Ruzicka, Manresa Bread, Los Gatos, CA
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.
- Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston
- Expatriate, Portland, OR
- Kimball House, Decatur, GA
- Lost Lake, Chicago
- Trick Dog, San Francisco
Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer
A beer, wine, or spirits producer who demonstrates consistency and exceptional skill in his or her craft.
- Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, High Wire Distilling Co., Charleston, SC
- Cathy Corison, Corison Winery, St. Helena, CA
- Drew Kulsveen, Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY
- Todd Leopold and Scott Leopold, Leopold Bros., Denver
- Lance Winters, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA
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.
- David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA
- Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco
- Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans
- Missy Robbins, Lilia, NYC
- Ana Sortun, Oleana, Cambridge, MA
- Marc Vetri, Vetri Cucina, Philadelphia
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
- Saison, San Francisco
- Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
- Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, MI
Chefs who set high culinary standards and also demonstrate integrity and admirable leadership skills in their respective regions. A nominee may be from any kind of dining establishment but must have been working as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years spent in the region.
Best Chef: California
- Jeremy Fox, Birdie G’s, Santa Monica, CA
- Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
- Jessica Koslow, Sqirl, Los Angeles
- Mourad Lahlou, Mourad, San Francisco
- Joshua Skenes, Angler, San Francisco
- Pim Techamuanvivit, Kin Khao, San Francisco
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
- Gene Kato, Momotaro, Chicago
- Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe, Chicago
- Noah Sandoval, Oriole, Chicago
- John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth, Chicago
- Erick Williams, Virtue, Chicago
- Lee Wolen, Boka, Chicago
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
- Amy Brandwein, Centrolina, Washington, D.C.
- Nicholas Elmi, Laurel, Philadelphia
- Rich Landau, Vedge, Philadelphia
- Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia
- Jon Sybert, Tail Up Goat, Washington, D.C.
- Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore
Best Chef: New York State
- Sean Gray, Momofuku Ko, NYC
- Brooks Headley, Superiority Burger, NYC
- Junghyun Park, Atomix, NYC
- Daniela Soto-Innes, ATLA, NYC
- Alex Stupak, Empellón, NYC
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)
- Vien Dobui, CÔNG TỬ BỘT, Portland, ME
- Tiffani Faison, Orfano, Boston
- Ben Jackson, Drifters Wife, Portland, ME
- Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House, North Yarmouth, ME
- Greg Mitchell and Chad Conley, Palace Diner, Biddeford, ME
- Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, MA
Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA)
- Peter Cho, Han Oak, Portland, OR
- Gregory Gourdet, Departure, Portland, OR
- Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush, Senia, Honolulu
- Katy Millard, Coquine, Portland, OR
- Kristen Murray, MÅURICE, Portland, OR
- Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, FL, LA, MS)
- Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR
- Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans
- Michael Gulotta, Maypop, New Orleans
- Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf, New Orleans
- Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
- Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC
- Cassidee Dabney, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
- Cheetie Kumar, Garland, Raleigh, NC
- Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis, TN
- Julia Sullivan, Henrietta Red, Nashville
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)
- Dan Krohmer, Other Mama, Las Vegas
- Jonathan Perno, Campo at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM
- Chrysa Robertson, Rancho Pinot, Scottsdale, AZ
- Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café Gran Reserva, Phoenix
- Jeff Smedstad, Elote Cafe, Sedona, AZ
- James Trees, Esther’s Kitchen, Las Vegas
Best Chef: Texas
- Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye, Austin
- Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie, Austin
- Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri, Houston
- Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio
- Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles, Houston
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
- Steven Brown, Tilia, Minneapolis
- Michael Corvino, Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, Kansas City, MO
- Michael Gallina, Vicia, St. Louis
- Jamie Malone, Grand Café, Minneapolis
- Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai, Minneapolis
Best Chef: Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY)
- Carrie Baird, Bar Dough, Denver
- Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, Boulder, UT
- Jeff Drew, Snake River Grill, Jackson, WY
- Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, CO
- Dana Rodriguez, Super Mega Bien, Denver
- Kelly Whitaker, The Wolf’s Tailor, Denver
Outstanding Restaurant Design Awards
75 Seats and Under
For the best restaurant design or renovation in North America since January 1, 2017.
- SIMPLICITY for HALL by o.d.o, NYC
- Heliotrope Architects for Rupee, Seattle
- Spoonbill Watering Hole and Restaurant, Flywheel Co. and Vermillion Architects, LLC for Spoonbill Watering Hole and Restaurant, Lafayette, LA
76 Seats and Over
For the best restaurant design or renovation in North America since January 1, 2017.
- Hacin + Associates for Shore Leave, Boston
- Ken Fulk Inc for Swan & Bar Bevy, Miami
- Klein Agency and ORA for auburn, Los Angeles
Outstanding Design of Alternative Eating & Drinking Places
Eligible establishments include places where prepared food and/or beverages are served for consumption on premises (except in the case of food trucks or takeout counters) but not for markets, farm stands, food shops or groceries where ingredients are sold for preparation elsewhere. This category, added in 2019, recognizes that the nature of restaurants is changing, and food is sold and consumed in a variety of environments that do not necessarily qualify as traditional full-service restaurants.
- Lori Chemla for Carissa’s the Bakery, East Hampton, NY
- Stonehill Taylor, MCR/Morse Development and Aaron Sciandra for Connie, Queens, NY
- Studio Dewberry and Workstead for Citrus Club, Charleston, SC