Here Are the DC-Area Finalists for the 2019 James Beard Awards

Centrolina chef Amy Brandwein and Kwame Onwuachi of Kith and Kin among the finalists.

Centrolina chef/owner Amy Brandwein is a Best Chef finalist for the 2019 James Beard Awards. Photograph by Scott Suchman

The James Beard Foundation has announced its shortlist of finalists for the 2019 James Beard Awards—one of the highest national honors for chefs, restaurants, and other industry professionals. 

As is always the case, a lengthy list of semifinalists—25 from around DC this year—was narrowed down to an elite few. The Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic is the most competitive local category, with Centrolina chef/owner Amy Brandwein and Bad Saint‘s Tom Cunanan in the running alongside oft-nominated chef Cindy Wolfe of Charleston Restaurant in Baltimore (chef Rich Landau is nominated for Vedge in Philadelphia but is also behind Fancy Radish here). All four are repeat nominees from last year.

For Outstanding Pastry Chef, cake master Pichet Ong of Brother and Sisters is among the finalists. In the Outstanding Restaurant category, José Andrés’ first-ever DC restaurant, Jaleo, is a contender. And it’s a big year for Kith and Kin chef/owner Kwame Onwuachi, who’s up for a Rising Star Chef award (he’s also coming out with a first-time memoir next month and appeared on ABC’s Taste Buds: Chefsgiving, which is up for a TV/Online Special award in the media category). 

In addition to the hospitality pros, the James Beard Awards also recognizes journalism, broadcast, and books. Our finalists include, among others, Maura Judkis of the Washington Post for Short Personal Essay (““Doritos is Developing Lady-Friendly Chips Because You Should Never Hear a Woman Crunch””); Pati Jinich for “Tijuana: Stories from the Border” on her TV show Pati’s Mexican Table (WETA); and, in the Foodways category, Michael Twitty, for his story in Bon Appetit (“Back to Where It All Began: I Had Never Eaten in Ghana Before. My Ancestors Had.”). Succotash chef/owner Ed Lee is up for a book awards Writing honor for Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine, and Cathy Barrow is nominated in Baking and Desserts for Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies. 

Several awards have already been announced. Chef Patrick O’Connell of The Inn at Little Washington is the recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement award, which honors “a person in the industry whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook, and think about food in America.” O’Connell has earned five other James Beard awards during his 40-year tenure at the Inn, as well as a recent third Michelin star—a first for any restaurant in the greater (much greater) Washington area. Closer to home, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse—an inclusive fixture in Dupont Circle for DC’s gay community for 34 years—earned an America’s Classics Award (you can read writer David Hagedorn‘s touching tribute here).

The JBF restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago on May 6, while the media winners will be honored in New York on April 26. 

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.