Here Are the DC-Area Semifinalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards

The biggest award season for the restaurant and bar industry returns.

Chef and owner Amy Brandwein of Centrolina. Photograph by Scott Suchman

The long-list of semifinalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards (a.k.a the restaurant and bar industry Oscars) is out. As usual there are a number of DC-area names among the nominees—both established talents and rising stars. An announcement of finalists will follow on Wednesday, March 25, and the winners will be anointed in a Chicago ceremony on May 4.

As usual, the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category is the most crowded with locals. Nominees in the competitive category include eight DC-area chefs, ranging from finer dining talents like Victor Albisu of Poca Madre and Centrolina‘s Amy Brandwein, to chefs behind neighborhood gems like Peter Prime (Cane), Green Almond Pantry‘s Cagla Onal-Urel, and Peter and Lisa Chang (Mama Chang), and Zenebech Dessu.  Modern Korean restaurant Anju is also continuing its hot streak with two nods: a Best Chef nomination for co-owner Danny Lee and a possible Rising Star Chef slot for Angel Barreto.

There are two local Best New Restaurant contenders: mother-and-daughter-run Burmese spot Thamee and creative Columbia Heights tasting room Rooster & Owl. That’s not to say all focus is on what’s new and hot. Veteran Ann Cashion of Johnny’s Half Shell is up for Outstanding Chef, as is Vikram Sunderam of Rasika (both are past Best Chef: Mid Atlantic winners).

DC-area talents are also absent from a few categories. There are no local nominees for Outstanding Bar Program or Outstanding Baker, though Katherine Thompson of Falls Church newcomer Thompson Italian has a chance at the Outstanding Pastry Chef award, as does One surprise contender: Penn Quarter’s Flight Wine Bar in the Outstanding Wine Program category.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the James Beard Awards, which (perhaps unlike the Oscars) has made significant strides towards diversity, inclusion, gender equality, and accessibility in recent years, with a “mission to make America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone: celebrating the past while championing the future.”

Here’s the list of DC-area nominees. See the full list here.

Best New Restaurant


Rooster & Owl

Outstanding Chef

Ann Cashion, Johnny’s Half Shell

Vikram Sunderam, Rasika

Outstanding Hospitality


Outstanding Pastry Chef

Katherine Thompson, Thompson Italian

Outstanding Restaurant



Outstanding Restaurateur

Ruth Gresser, Pizzeria Paradiso

Outstanding Wine Program

Flight Wine Bar

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, Beer Producer

Rutger de Vink, RdV Vineyards (Delaplane, VA)

Rising Star Chef

Angel Barreto, Anju

Daniela Moreira, Timber Pizza Co.

Paola Velez, Kith and Kin

Best Chef—Mid-Atlantic

Victor Albisu, Poca Madre

Amy Brandwein, Centrolina

Peter and Lisa Chang, Mama Chang

Zenebech Dessu, Zenebech Restaurant

Danny Lee, Anju

Cagla Onal-Urel, Green Almond Pantry

Peter Prime, Cane

Jon Sybert, Tail Up Goat

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.