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Sorry, Manhattan. The James Beard Award spotlight focuses on America’s smaller cities

Gregory Gourdet

Gregory Gourdet of Kann restaurant in Portland, Oregon was named Best Chef: Pacific Northwest. | Photo courtesy of the James Beard Foundation

Palestinian-American chef Michael Rafidi was named Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation at a star-studded ceremony in Chicago on Monday.

By dedicating the award to Palestinians in the US, Palestine and around the world, Rafidi’s acceptance speech could have taken a political turn, but instead the chef and owner of Albi restaurant in Washington, DC, brought a group of his team members gathered onstage at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago to express gratitude and say, “There is no such thing as an excellent chef without an excellent team.”

In fact, the group acceptance speech was the theme of the evening, which is often described as the Oscars of the culinary world. Thanks to sponsors who helped nominees bring more staff to this year’s awards, many winners brought their teams to the stage and spoke about the need for restaurant families to care and take care of each other in a business that can take its toll . mental health.

For example, Harley Peet, who won Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic for his restaurant Bas Rouge in Easton, Maryland, urged the audience to watch colleagues for signs of struggle.

“If you recognize someone who is having problems, always contact us before it is too late,” he said, tearfully dedicating the award to a colleague and saying: “We love you. We miss you.”

Jason Hammel, whose Chicago restaurant Lula Café won the award for Outstanding Hospitality, also spoke about the need to create a healthy work environment, saying: “Hospitality is a team award because the hard work of emotional labor is not about how we treat guests , but it’s about how we treat each other.”

Gregory Gourdet, chef-owner of Haitian restaurant Kann in Portland, Oregon, was named Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific, taking home his third medal (Kann was Best New Restaurant last year).

Gourdet talked about his own struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction and how he found purpose as a chef, with the help of hundreds of cooks, servers and dishwashers who helped along the way.

The James Beard Foundation’s efforts in recent years to redesign the awards system to celebrate the industry’s rich diversity have clearly paid off. As if to emphasize this point, many winners wore finery that represented their culture, from Japanese kimonos (worn by some with sneakers) to the elegant Haitian-inspired plumage worn by Gourdet.

At his restaurant Kann, Gourdet said he created a hub for Haitian culture and storytelling “in the most random place, the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “My only hope is that we can continue to do the right thing, and continue to strive for diversity and inclusion,” Gourdet said. “Let’s hope that the next generation has it a little better than us, and that the generation after that has it better than them.”

This year’s ceremony also spotlighted many small-town restaurateurs. In fact, there were no winners from Manhattan; the closest was Charlie Mitchell of Clover Hill restaurant in Brooklyn, who won for Best Chef: New York State. However, Washington, DC, Chicago and even Portland, Maine had multiple winners.

Paul Smith, who was named Best Chef: Southeast, was the first to bring home a Beard Medal to West Virginia.

“Want to know the two words that have never been said before at the Beard Awards? West Virginia,” says Smith, who founded the 1010 Bridge restaurant in Charleston with a menu that tells the story of Appalachia.

Christina Nguyen of Minneapolis Southeast Asian restaurant Hai Hai, which was named Best Chef: Midwest, thanked the Beard Foundation for recognizing restaurants like hers, which in the past may have only appeared on lists for “best cheap eats” ‘, she says. said.

Female chefs and restaurateurs won a major award this year, from Valerie Chang, Best Chef: South, who took home a medal at her Peruvian restaurant Maty’s in Miami; to Atsako Fujimoto of Norimoto restaurant in Portland, Maine, who came to the U.S. from Tokyo at age 33. She had no kitchen experience, but started working in restaurants because she enjoyed it so much. She is this year’s Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker.

Host Ann Kim, who won Best Chef: Midwest in 2019, noted the number of female chefs and restaurateurs who were among the winners. Kim reiterated her 2019 “mantra,” which went viral in a tweet, telling women who doubted themselves to “fuck the fear” and keep going.

“Women have come a long way on this stage,” Kim said. “When I come back here, I feel like I have a spiritual group of all the women, past, present and future, who have defined and redefined cooking on their own terms.”

Here are the winners of this year’s James Beard Awards for Chefs and Restaurateurs:

Outstanding Restaurateur:

Erika Whitaker and Kelly Whitaker, ID EST (The Wolf’s Tailor, BRUTØ, Basta and others), Boulder, Colorado

Excellent Chef:

Michael Rafidi, Albi, Washington, DC

Excellent restaurant:

Long Course, Portland, Oregon

Emerging chef:

Masako Morishita, Perry’s, Washington, DC

Best new restaurant:

Dakar NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana

Excellent bakery:

ZU Bakery, Portland, Maine

Excellent pastry chef or baker:

Atsuko Fujimoto, Norimoto Bakery, Portland, Maine

Excellent hospitality:

Lula Cafe, Chicago

Excellent wine and other beverage program: .

Lula Drake Wine Salon, Columbia, South Carolina

Excellent bar:

Pearl of the South, New Orleans

Best Chef: California

Lord Maynard Llera, Kuya Lord, Los Angeles

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)

Hajime Sato, Sozai, Clawson, Michigan

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)

Harley Peet, Bas Rouge, Easton, Maryland

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)

Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Best Chef: Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY)

Matt Vawter, Rootstalk, Breckenridge, Colorado

Best Chef: New York State

Charlie Mitchell, Clover Hill, Brooklyn

Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)

David Standridge, daughter of the shipbuilder, Mystic, Connecticut

Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA)

Gregory Gourdet, Kann, Portland, Oregon

Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)

Paul Smith, 1010 Bridge, Charleston, West Virginia

Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR)

Valerie Chang, Maty’s, Miami, Florida

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)

Rene Andrade, Bacanora, Phoenix, Arizona

Best Chef: Texas

Ana Liz Pulido, Ana Liz Taqueria, Mission, Texas

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