DC’s Rob Rubba Named Best Chef in the Country

The James Beard Awards—aka the "Oscars of the food world"—were handed out last night.

Chef Rob Rubba at Oyster Oyster. Photograph courtesy of Oyster Oyster.

The James Beard Awards—aka the “Oscars of the food world”—were handed out last night at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House. And one of the night’s biggest medals (like, Best Actor big) went to Rob Rubba, who helms the kitchen at Oyster Oyster in Shaw. The restaurant, which is sustainability-focused and vegetarian but occasionally uses oysters, has racked up several honors since it opened in June 2021. The tasting-menu spot—a collaboration with former Estadio owner Max Kuller—holds a Michelin star, topped the Washington Post‘s 2021 fall dining guide, and was named a best new restaurant by Esquire. In the fall, Rubba, who previously ran the late Hazel, was named one of the best new chefs in the country by Food & Wine. The last time a DC talent won the coveted chef award was in 2011, when José Andrés was honored for Minibar. Other winners include the late Michel Richard for Citronelle (2007), Patrick O’Connell for the Inn at Little Washington (2001), and the late Jean-Louis Palladin for Jean-Louis at the Watergate (1993).

DC restaurants came up otherwise empty-handed at the awards. Causa, the Shaw Peruvian dining room, lost out to Portland, OR restaurant Kann in the Best New Restaurant category (Oyster Oyster had been a finalist in 2022). And Albi chef/owner Michael Rafidi had been up for the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award, which ultimately went to Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon of Philadelphia’s Kanlaya.

Still, it was a better showing that the 2022 Beards, when local restaurants and chefs won nothing at all for the first time since 2012.

Read the full list of Beard winners here.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.