After a two year hiatus, the James Beard awards (aka the culinary Oscars), will return to Chicago’s Lyric Opera House on June 13. It wasn’t just the pandemic that caused the high-profile awards to take a pause. There were a myriad of other factors pertaining to diversity and inclusion—for instance, no Black chefs were included in the last slate of winners. An internal audit led to a rethinking of how the awards are conducted, and who gets to judge them.
Today’s list of semi-finalists will be whittled down to a much shorter list of finalists, to be announced March 16. In the meantime, here’s who is in the running from our area:
Outstanding Restaurateur: Ashok Bajaj, who owns Rasika, the Bombay Club, Bindaas, Modena, Sababa, La Bise, and Annabelle, is up for this major award.
Outstanding Chef: Famed Chinese chef Peter Chang (of Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda, Peter Chang in Arlington and Rockville, and NiHao in Baltimore) is a contender, as is Cindy Wolf of Baltimore’s Charleston.
Outstanding Restaurant: The nominees for the night’s biggest award include Metier, Eric Ziebold and Celia Laurent’s seven year-old fine-dining salon in Shaw.
Emerging Chef: The very talented Angel Barreto of Anju, the Dupont Circle Korean destination, is the only local chef who made the cut in this coveted category.
Best New Restaurant: The vegetarian Shaw hotspot Oyster Oyster is up against Peter and Lisa Chang’s NiHao in Baltimore, which opened in the summer of 2020.
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Another nod to Metier (and sister restaurant Kinship): the inclusion of longtime pastry chef Anne Specker in this category.
Outstanding Wine Program: Middle Eastern restaurant Maydan is lauded for its collection of wines from small producers in places like Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Mexico.
Outstanding Bar Program: Jose Andres’s barmini is in the running for its modernist, visually stunning drinks.
Best Chef Mid-Atlantic: Anju’s Angel Barreto, also up for Best Emerging Chef, joins Centrolina and Piccolina chef/owner Amy Brandwein; Ruthie’s All Day proprietor Matt Hill; Albi chef/owner Michael Rafidi; Rooster and Owl chef/owner Yuan Tang; and former Cane chef Peter Prime. Carlos Raba of Baltimore’s Clavel Mezcaleria is also a semi-finalist.
DC came up dry in the Outstanding Baker and Outstanding Hospitality categories. Here’s the full list of semifinalists.