The James Beard Foundation recently presented its 2023 culinary awards at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago. Those who receive this prestigious award have demonstrated exceptional talent and achievements in the culinary field while exhibiting a “commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”
This year, the organization has increased its focus on equity, marginalized voices, and social justice while taking a closer look at the positive impact a restaurant makes. Not limited to fine dining, the framework that has defined the organization is changing, including the definition of excellence.
Let’s look at some of the winners of the Oscars of the food world and what sets them apart.
Best New Restaurant
The Best New Restaurant category emphasizes excellent cuisine, hospitality, operations, and atmosphere. Gregory Gourdet and his new Haitian restaurant, Kann, in Portland, Oregon, received the award. This represents the first time a Portland restaurant received the honor.
Kann opened in August 2022, garnering many accolades. Here, you’ll find the Haitian cuisine of Gourdet’s heritage and the seasonal food of the Pacific Northwest. Previously, you could find him at the helm as an executive chef of Departure, a modern Asian restaurant in Portland. He’s also made it to the finals of Top Chef—twice.
Their spring menu reveals unique offerings, such as kale and sweet plantain salad and glazed duck with cane syrup, pineapple, and tamarind.
Gourdet’s focus, however, isn’t just on the guest experience; it’s also centered on the entire holistic experience. He wants his team to be happy and, to help promote this goal, all staff make the same wage, except managers, and split the tips.
Friday Saturday Sunday, in Philadelphia, took home the Outstanding Restaurant award. Husband and wife Chad and Hanna Williams purchased the restaurant in 2014, married in the kitchen, and proceeded to gut it. Today, Chef Chad Williams offers a seasonally-inspired eight-course tasting menu that includes crudo, confit artichokes, casarecce, fish, grilled quail, and more. The cost is $155, and an optional $95 for wine pairing.
And the outstanding chef award goes to Rob Rubba, chef and owner of Oyster Oyster in Washington, DC. His restaurant, opening in the summer of 2021, was also named one of the best new restaurants in the nation by Esquire, and he received best new chef acclaim by Food & Wine. To say he’s had a good few years would be an understatement.
Before Oyster Oyster, Rubba was the executive chef and founder of Hazel, another award-winning restaurant. The last time a Washington DC chef won the award was 12 years ago when Jose Andres received the honor for Minibar.
The Menu at Oyster Oyster
Oyster Oyster is a plant-forward, sustainable restaurant. And while one would usually think of bivalves, the name also refers to the humble mushroom. Rubba’s partner in the endeavor is Max Kuller, owner of Estadio and a vegetarian for over 24 years.
Oyster Oyster’s micro-seasonal menus are a product of local farms that share the same bent toward sustainability and stewardship. It includes environmentally-beneficial oysters from the Chesapeake and locally-foraged mushrooms. At the bar, you can find sustainable, biodynamic, and organic wines, with curated pairings part of their offerings. Guests pay $95 for the tasting menu and an optional $60 for wine pairing.
How Do You Win a James Beard Award?
To win a James Beard Award, you need to do the following:
Step 1: Get nominated. Anyone can throw you into the ring. So, the first step is someone submitting you or your restaurant. Remember that to win the Outstanding Restaurant award, it must have operated for five consecutive years.
Step 2: The James Beard Foundation (JBF) committee members examine the recommendations, including those of locally appointed judges and experts, and make their selections. If you’re wondering who makes up the committee and regional judges, you’ll find restaurant critics, food and beverage writers, culinary instructors, and authors.
Step 3: Now, you’ve reached the national level. Here, a voting body, chosen by committee members, selects the 20 semifinalists before claiming the winners.
How Does Winning a James Beard Award Impact Your Restaurant?
Those who are nominated receive an incredible increase in visibility and level of awareness. Of course, the effects vary significantly based on the chef, restaurant, and location. Some see a substantial uptick in guests, while others don’t really see a direct increase in business. They all, however, appreciate what the honor
means and their achievement.
Is a James Beard Award more prestigious than a Michelin Star?
The Michelin Guide’s awarded Michelin Stars is the most coveted culinary award a chef or restaurant can achieve.
What does it mean to win a James Beard Award?
According to the JBF, “The James Beard Awards, considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognize exceptional talent in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”
At EMERGING, we congratulate all those who received the acclaimed James Beard Awards. As a strategic partner with today’s leading restaurant and entertainment concepts, we understand the immense commitment this requires.