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Announcing the SF Bay Area’s 2020 James Beard Awards Finalists

Here’s the full list of local contenders

A silver James Beard Foundation medal against a black background is seen. James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation just announced the finalists for its prestigious Restaurant and Chef Awards. Per usual, the list includes numerous chefs and restaurants from the San Francisco Bay Area, including Verjus, Benu, Mourad, and Mister Jiu’s.

It’s an unusual year for the awards, which were first announced on February 26 as planned, then postponed due to coronavirus concerns. The finalists should have been announced on March 25, and the winners should have been celebrated on May 4 with the annual gala in Chicago, but the foundation made the call to put everything on pause until later in the summer.

Following today’s announcement of the finalists, the winners will be honored on September 25 at a ceremony to be held in Chicago. As of right now, the Foundation hasn’t confirmed the format of the event, but is presumably hoping for an in-person event. Even if the health crisis has dampened the celebratory mood, heartfelt congratulations are in order to our local finalists, listed below. For the full list of national finalists, check it out here.

A couple of years ago, the James Beard Foundation made an effort to diversify both the nominees and judges, increasing the representation of women and people of color. This year, the foundation focused on geographic diversity, adding best chef categories for both California and Texas.

Over the past couple of years, the Bay Area has been acknowledged with 15 finalists in 2019, and 15 finalists in 2018, so the 16 finalists this year for 2020 are a slight uptick. Ultimately, those nominations resulted in three winners in 2019, and five winners in 2018, including Thad Vogler of Bar Agricole, Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn, and Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie. So these finalists are poised to join very good company.

Best New Restaurant

A restaurant opened in the calendar year before the award will be given that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.

Outstanding Baker

A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries, or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.

Outstanding Bar Program

A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits, and/or beer service.

Outstanding Chef

A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Eligible candidates must have been working as a chef for the past five years.

  • David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos
  • Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco

Outstanding Hospitality

A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.

Outstanding Pastry Chef

A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads in a restaurant, and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence. Must have been a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.

Outstanding Restaurant

A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere, and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer

A beer, wine, or spirits producer that has made a significant national impact on the restaurant industry.

Rising Star Chef of the Year

A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.

Best Chef: California

Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Eligible candidates may be from any kind of dining establishment and must have been working as a chef for at least five years with the three most recent years spent in the region.

2020 Leadership Award Honorees

  • Caleb Zigas, Executive Director, La Cocina

And the following honorees were previously announced, and are also receiving recognition this year.

Humanitarian of the Year

Zero Foodprint

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Chez Panisse

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.