After a two-year pandemic-and-equity-revamping break, the James Beard Awards for restaurants and chefs are back, but — womp womp — the Seattle scene suffered a shutout.
In what’s known as the Oscars of the food industry, local couple Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule and Revel have 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. This year, they were named finalists for the nationwide category of Outstanding Chef, with the award going to chef Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia.
Renee Erickson — who won the Beard award for Best Chef: Northwest in 2016 — was a finalist for her Ballard touchstone The Walrus and the Carpenter for Outstanding Restaurant nationwide, an award that went to Asheville’s Chai Pani. And Mutsuko Soma of Kamonegi was nominated for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific, with the award going to Robynne Maii of Fête in Honolulu.
As time has marched on, more award-worthy chefs and restaurants have emerged across the nation (which is great), while simultaneously, the Beard Awards have broadened its idea of who and what merit awards. However, while the Foundation has worked hard, adding to and reconfiguring some categories — as well as adding a long list of semifinalists — it’s a bit of a case of a cake that was baked for a completely different, much smaller (and, then, mainly white male chefs’) party.
Meanwhile, congratulations to all the winners — including Adrian Miller, in the book category of the Beard media awards, for his “Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue.” Miller is not from Seattle, but local spot Lil Red’s Takeout & Catering made his list of the top 20 Black-owned BBQ places nationwide, and then Erasto “Red” Jackson was named a 2022 James Beard semifinalist. Reading the book and eating at Lil Red’s are one way to get some award-worthy stuff, right here, right now. Likewise, you may get yourself to some top-notch restaurants — and one bakery — by checking out the full list of this year’s semifinalists.