After whittling down the long list of James Beard Foundation Awards Bay Area nominees from 20 semifinalists to just three finalists for this year’s James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony, held in Chicago on Monday, June 5, it seems the awards panel placed their votes elsewhere.
The Bay Area didn’t land a single win.
This year’s Bay Area finalists included Kyle and Katina Connaughton of SingleThread in Healdsburg for the Best Chef: California category; Vince Bugtong of Abacá in San Francisco for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker; and Lazy Bear in San Francisco in the Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program category. Instead, Justin Pichetrungsi of Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks took home the Best Chef: California honors, while Margarita Manzke of République (also in Los Angeles) won in the outstanding pastry chef or baker category, after five previous nominations. Los Angeles’s Ototo won the Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages honor. Notably, chef, food writer, and author Illyanna Maisonet from the Bay Area won an Emerging Voice award for her book, Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook during the James Beard Media Award ceremony held on Saturday, June 3.
This showing follows a year in which Bay Area locals received a number of top honors: In 2022, chef Brandon Jew walked away with the Best Chef: California achievement, just a few days after he also received a James Beard Media Award with co-author Tienlon Ho for their cookbook Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food in the Restaurant and Professional category. Understory in Oakland took home the Emerging Leadership award, while Grace Young received the Humanitarian Award as the co-creator of the video series Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories. Chef Martin Yan, meanwhile, took home a 2022 Lifetime Achievement award.
But the Bay Area isn’t the only major metropolis that was shut out of the awards. Seattle went into Monday’s awards ceremony with four nominees and walked away empty-handed; Las Vegas and New Orleans both did not receive any awards. Also notably, aside from the New York regional chef award, New York was completely passed over in every award category it was nominated in, for the first time since the awards began in 1991. Still, when the Bay Area’s three finalists were announced back in March, Bon Appetit took a moment to question the cultural relevance of the Bay Area’s food scene. The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, underlined the concern about the local dining scene by asking chefs and industry insiders for their take about the lack of nominations.
While the Bay Area’s dining scene may be experiencing some growing pains, so too is the James Beard Foundation. Last year marked the first awards ceremony for the foundation following an internal audit that occurred after questions were raised about the integrity of the awards — ultimately leading to the cancellation of both the 2020 and 2021 ceremonies. This year saw more drama with the disqualification of chef Timothy Hontzas from the Best Chef: South category, which led to a committee member and a voting judge to resign.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards. Eater is partnering with the James Beard Foundation to livestream the awards in 2023. All editorial content, including this post, is produced independently of the James Beard Foundation.
Update: June 7th, 2023, 8:42 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that Ilyanna Maisonet is an Emerging Voice winner for the Media Awards and that New York has its own regional chef award.