The James Beard Foundation has announced the finalists for its 2022 Restaurant and Chef Awards, and many nominees are from the San Francisco and the Bay Area. Chefs and restaurants nominated include Brandon Jew of Chinatown love letter Mister Jiu’s, Thai food wizard Pim Techamuanvivit of Nari, local institution the House of Prime Rib, and Horn Barbecue, Fillmore and Oakland pitmaster Matt Horn’s restaurant.
The “America’s Classics” were the first winners of the 2022 season, and while NorCal didn’t get any love among those awards, the overall region did see plenty of nominations. At the end of February, the organization announced its semifinalists. Of the Northern Californian nominees, the bakers of Breadbelly, Willy Ng of Koi Palace, and the wine program at The Punchdown, were among those recognized who didn’t make it to the next round of finalists.
The James Beard Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit hoping to highlight the “centrality of food culture in our daily lives,” has been doling out awards to chefs and restaurants the group considers noteworthy since 1990. More recently, in 2021 the organization launched the James Beard House Fellows program in hopes of building paths for what they call “emerging chefs.”
This year’s awards are the first in two years, coming after the Foundation wrestled with a host of internal issues, complicated by the pandemic and a reckoning with diversity and equity measures within the organization. An external audit issued in August 2020 resulted in a 21-page report of its findings that recommended a litany of ways the JBF can improve its access to historically underrepresented chefs and businesses. The foundation, while still remodeling its panelists and selection practices, aims to have at least 50 percent of judges be people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color by 2023.
Below are the Bay Area semifinalists. The whole list of nominees can be read here, and the winners will be announced on June 13.
House of Prime Rib
Best New Restaurant
Best Chef California
Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu’s
Pim Techamuanvivit, Nari
Reem Assil, Reem’s
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.