Michael Rafidi and Masako Morishita Win Big at the 2024 James Beard Awards

The DC chefs took home two of the most high profile awards of the night.

Masako Morishita at the 2024 James Beard Awards. Photograph by Charissa Benjamin.

The James Beard Awards—aka the Oscars of the food world (h/t to Ruth Reichl for apparently coining that!)—happened tonight in Chicago. And the ceremony started—and ended—with some excellent news for DC food fans. The first prize of the night was for one of the bigger national categories, Emerging Chef. It went to Masako Morishita, the Commanders cheerleader-turned-chef who took over the kitchen at Perry’s in 2022, putting the 40 year-old Adams Morgan institution back on diners’ radars with Japanese comfort dishes like udon carbonara and miso butter clams. “This is my wildest American dream come true,” she said, and thanked her family, including her teary husband, former Elle executive chef Brad Deboy. “All the immigrant ladies—I can do it, so everybody can do it.” 

The biggest news of the night was announced at the end of the ceremony. Oyster Oyster chef Rob Rubba, who won the coveted Outstanding Chef award in 2023, joined Nancy Silverton to name his successor this year: Michael Rafidi of Navy Yard Levantine destination Albi. “The only thing I can think about right now is my Palestinian grandparents and my mother,” Rafidi told the audience. “This award is dedicated to Palestine.”

Albi chef Michael Rafidi. Photograph by Scott Suchman .

A few local chefs were up for the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category, including Moon Rabbit’s Kevin Tien and Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana’s Tony Conte. That award went to Harley Peet of the elegant continental dining room Bas Rouge in Easton, who gave an emotional speech honoring his late parents, his husband, and his fellow chef David Kuzio, who died earlier this year. 

In the Outstanding Pastry Chef category, Moon Rabbit’s Susan Bae lost to Portland, Maine’s Atsuko Fujimoto. Adams Morgan restaurant Tail Up Goat was up for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program, which ultimately went to Lula Drake Wine Parlour in Columbia, South Carolina. Hollis Wells Silverman, owner of the Duck and the Peach, La Collina, Meli, and the Wells, was nominated for the Outstanding Restaurateur; that award was won by Kelly and Erika Whitaker of Id Est in Boulder.

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.