With the James Beard Awards for restaurants and chefs back after a two-year pandemic-and-equity-revamping break, the list of finalists is out, with only a few Seattle favorites making the cut. Out of a list of 17 local semifinalists — including the likes of chef Kristi Brown of acclaimed Communion and hot Orcas Island spot Matia Kitchen & Bar, both new — just three have a chance at a Beard medal, and they represent the tried and true.
The Seattle finalists for the 2022 James Beard awards — aka the Oscars of the restaurant industry — are:
- Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule for Outstanding Chef
- Renee Erickson‘s The Walrus and the Carpenter for Outstanding Restaurant
- Mutsuko Soma of Kamonegi for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific
The team of Yang and Chirchi has been nominated so many times, Yang herself has said she’s lost count — the team and/or Joule made either the long or the short list every year from 2008-2020. Another repeat nominee, Erickson previously won the Beard award for Best Chef: Northwest in 2016. Soma, meanwhile, makes it to the short list after three prior years as a semifinalist. New faces and places are notably lacking here, yet the line of the deserving awaiting recognition is long, putting the awards committee in a conundrum.
It’s not unprecedented for Seattle-area semifinalists to be winnowed away thusly — only a few local chefs and restaurants made it to finalist status in 2020. That’s also the year that, confusingly, just a handful of awards were actually given out as the James Beard Foundation struggled with issues of diversity and equity. Seattle’s Oriental Mart in Pike Place Market was honored with an America’s Classics Award in 2020, while Rupee Bar received a Beard for design. The main chef and restaurant awards were then scrapped, as were all the Beards in 2021. The return for 2022 comes after an internal audit, changes to voting/judging protocols and a new code of ethics, in pursuit of inclusivity.
The Pacific Northwest overall netted just three more final nominees this year, all in Portland: Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom of Langbaan, Hat Yai, Eem and others for Outstanding Restaurateur; Carlo Lamagna of Magna Kusina for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific; and Thomas Pisha-Duffly of Oma’s Hideaway, also in the regional Best Chef category.
Find the full list of 2022 James Beard Award finalists here. The awards take place on June 13 in Chicago.