New York chefs and restaurants left last night’s James Beard Awards without winning any national recognitions. The annual awards, one of the highest honors in the American restaurant industry, to the point that they are called the “Oscars of the food world,” passed over New York in every national category, the first time the state has been shut out of the awards since the honors were first presented over three decades ago.
The awards snubbed New York chefs and restaurants in favor of nominees in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, California as the James Beard Foundation shifts its focus away from the city where the awards originated.
New York finalists this year included Dept of Culture, the city’s only Nigerian tasting menu restaurant (best new restaurant); Erik Ramirez of the Peruvian restaurant Llama Inn (outstanding chef); Flatiron’s acclaimed Korean steakhouse Cote (outstanding wine and beverage program); and Charlie Mitchell of the Michelin-starred restaurant Clover Hill (emerging chef).
As the night wore on, whether there would be a shutout hinged on Dept of Culture, a small Bed-Stuy restaurant that claimed a handful of accolades in its first year, including a best new restaurant nod from Eater in 2022. The restaurant was a finalist in the best new restaurant category, one of the last awards to be announced on Monday evening. Kann, a Haitian restaurant in Portland, took home the recognition.
Junghyun Park, the co-owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Atomix, took home an award in a regional category. He was named the best chef in New York in a contest that included finalists Nasim Alikhani, owner of the Persian restaurant Sofreh; Mary Attea, chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant the Musket Room; Amanda Cohen, of the vegetarian institution Dirt Candy; and Shaina Loew-Banayan, behind the lauded Hudson, New York, restaurant Cafe Mutton.
For New York chefs and restaurants, the recognitions ended there, an unprecedented outcome for a city that has historically dominated awards night.
The national awards have roots in New York. In their first year, 1991, some 1,000 chefs, restaurateurs, and food writers boarded the M.S. New Yorker, a boat anchored off of Manhattan, for the inaugural ceremony. It was hosted by the writer George Plimpton, a New Yorker, and its first outstanding restaurant award went to Bouley, a French restaurant from the chef David Bouley, once located in Tribeca.
Every year since, at least one New York chef or restaurant has won in a national category. But it’s no longer a New York awards show, and it hasn’t been for years. The awards moved to Chicago in 2015, after being held at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center for years, and the Foundation has made efforts to create more geographic diversity in its selections.
Even as drama surrounding the awards unfolded elsewhere in the country, resulting in one chef being disqualified from the category they were nominated for and another chef being investigated but not disqualified by the awards, New York was spared.
The James Beard Awards returned last year following canceled awards seasons in 2020 and 2021. This year’s winners were announced at a ceremony at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards. Eater is partnering with the James Beard Foundation to livestream the awards in 2023. All editorial content, including this post, is produced independently of the James Beard Foundation.