Stories / Awards

Celebrating Nominees, Honorees, and Looking to the Future

JBF Editors

September 25, 2020


Nominee badges Eliesa Johnson Photography
Photo: Eliesa Johnson Photography

Tonight we celebrated the 2020 James Beard Award honorees and nominees in a live virtual event broadcast via Twitter from Chicago (watch it now ICYMI). The evening was emceed by Ji Suk Yi, a staple in local Chicago media and television for over 10 years. Yi played host to the broadcast from the show’s headquarters in Chicago as this year’s presenters and participants joined remotely.

James Beard Award–winning host Pati Jinich introduced the America’s Classics honorees, and the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by musician and journalist Questlove to author, editor, and translator of 18 books, Jessica B. Harris. Alice Waters, who accepted the Design Icon Award for her restaurant Chez Panisse, also presented the Humanitarian of the Year honor to nonprofit organization Zero Foodprint.

Colleen Vincent, JBF vice president of community, spoke with 2019 Leadership Award winner Sean Sherman about leading change and diversity through food, and the recent announcement of the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.

Nominees also offered words of inspiration and support to their colleagues throughout the industry, providing a glimpse of hope and positivity from across the country. They detailed the way in which they have given back to their communities in recent months and how they are motivated to build back better than before.

To close the evening, Gail Simmons moderated a roundtable discussion with chefs Kwame Onwuachi, Tanya Holland, Beverly Kim, and Johnny Clark on the state of the restaurant industry, touching on the role of independent restaurants in local communities, challenges faced in recent months, the economics of running an independent restaurant, racial and gender inequity, and more. Below are a few highlights, and stay tuned to Beard Foundation channels for the full discussion:

  • Tanya Holland: “As far as the role of community, I have people in my community who are just like, ‘we have to keep you here, what can we do, what can we do more of?’ Because it’s so important, particularly in Oakland, California, to have a Black-owned restaurant and a Black-owned business. The day after the movement was our highest sales date ever even before COVID, and that just goes to show you how committed people were to showing how important we are.”
  • Beverly Kim: “Even though we were barely breaking even during this pandemic, it felt really good to help our frontline workers and cook for the local hospital and give to the local senior citizen and Korean American community. And we’re continuing to think of ways we can give back to our community especially during the protests; Black Lives Matter brought a lot of attention to using our platform to talk about these issues as well as inequities in gender. People look to restaurants believe it or not, they see us as leaders in the community, for social justice, and change.”
  • Kwame Onwuachi: “People think that when they come into restaurants and they see a busy restaurant they think it’s dollar signs. And a lot of that money isn’t going to onions, it’s going to rent and taxes. So that’s what needs to change. But we live in a capitalistic nation and we all signed up for this. We also need to look in ourselves as to why we’re in this industry and what we really want to achieve. Are we going to drink our water and mind our business or are we going to fight for something that we can actually change? And if we don’t have the answers for it, I think we need to be really careful of what we’re advocating for.”

There will be no James Beard Awards given in 2021 in the Restaurant and Chef, Media (Book, Broadcast Media and Journalism Awards), and Restaurant Design categories. The Foundation will not be accepting recommendations or submissions for the upcoming year. As the Foundation moves forward, it will be conducting a comprehensive internal and external review of the Awards systems to address any systemic bias and align the Awards with the Foundation’s mission of promoting sustainability, equity, and diversity in the restaurant industry. The Foundation is taking stock of how the Awards are administered, communicated, and presented to assure the Awards are open and accessible to all. Updates regarding the Awards will be posted regularly to and on the Foundation’s social channels (@beardfoundation on Twitter and Instagram).

Everyone in this industry has worked long and hard, and we will continue to nurture your passion and honor your contributions to this community. Tonight we honor the nominees of the 2020 James Beard Awards, presented by CapitalOne.


The 2020 James Beard Awards Honorees

Humanitarian of the Year
Zero Foodprint


Lifetime Achievement
Jessica B. Harris


America’s Classics
Lassis Inn, Little Rock, AR
Owners: Elihue Washington Jr. and Maria Washington

Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, Frankenmuth, MI
Owners: Al Zehnder, Susan Zehnder, and Martha Zehnder Shelton

Puritan Backroom, Manchester, NH
Owners: Arthur Pappas, Chris Pappas, and Eric Zink

Oriental Mart, Seattle
Owners: Mila Apostol and Joy Apostol

El Taco de Mexico, Denver
Owner: Sasha Zanabria

Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que, Brownsville, TX
Owner: Armando Vera


The James Beard Leadership Awards
Phillip and Dorathy E. Barker, Co-Founders, Operation Spring Plant, Inc. (OSP)

Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director, Community to Community Development (C2C)

Abiodun Henderson, Executive Director, The Come Up Project featuring Gangstas to Growers

Mark and Kerry Marhefka, Owners, Abundant Seafood

Caleb Zigas, Executive Director, La Cocina


The James Beard Restaurant Design Awards
Design Icon
Chez Panisse


75 Seats and Under
Firms: Heliotrope Architects
Project: Rupee, Seattle


76 Seats and Over
Firms: Klein Agency and ORA
Project: auburn, Los Angeles


Outstanding Design of Alternative Eating & Drinking Places
Firms: Lori Chemla
Project Carissa’s the Bakery, East Hampton, NY


The 2020 James Beard Awards Restaurant and Chef Nominees

Best New Restaurant
Automatic Seafood & Oysters, Birmingham, AL

Demi, Minneapolis

Eem, Portland, OR

Fox & the Knife, Boston

Gado Gado, Portland, OR

Gianna, New Orleans

Kalaya, Philadelphia

Nightshade, Los Angeles

Pasjoli, Santa Monica, CA

Verjus, San Francisco


Outstanding Baker
Graison Gill, Bellegarde Bakery, New Orleans

Zachary Golper, Bien Cuit, NYC

Maura Kilpatrick, Sofra Bakery, Cambridge, MA

Lisa Ludwinski, Sister Pie, Detroit

Avery Ruzicka, Manresa Bread, Los Gatos, CA


Outstanding Bar Program
Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston

Expatriate, Portland, OR

Kimball House, Decatur, GA

Lost Lake, Chicago

Trick Dog, San Francisco


Outstanding Chef (Presented by All-Clad Metalcrafters)
Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco

Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans

Missy Robbins, Lilia, NYC

Ana Sortun, Oleana, Cambridge, MA

Marc Vetri, Vetri Cucina, Philadelphia


Outstanding Hospitality (Presented by American Airlines)
Brigtsen's, New Orleans

Canlis, Seattle

Saison, San Francisco

Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco

Zingerman's Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, MI


Outstanding Pastry Chef (Presented by Lavazza)
Lincoln Carson, Bon Temps, Los Angeles

Juan Contreras, Atelier Crenn, San Francisco

Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles

Diane Moua, Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis

Natasha Pickowicz, Flora Bar, NYC

Miro Uskokovic, Gramercy Tavern, NYC


Outstanding Restaurant (Presented by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water)
FIG, Charleston, SC

Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, CO

Jaleo, Washington, D.C.

Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix

Quince, San Francisco


Outstanding Restaurateur 
Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer, JK Food Group, Boston (Little Donkey, Toro, Coppa)

JoAnn Clevenger, Upperline Restaurant, New Orleans

Alex Raij and Eder Montero, NYC (La Vara, Saint Julivert Fisherie, Txikito)

Jason Wang, Xi'an Famous Foods, NYC


Outstanding Wine Program
Bacchanal, New Orleans

Canard, Portland, OR


Miller Union, Atlanta

Night + Market Sahm, Venice, CA

Spiaggia, Chicago


Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer
Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, High Wire Distilling Co., Charleston, SC

Cathy Corison, Corison Winery, St. Helena, CA

Drew Kulsveen, Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY

Todd Leopold and Scott Leopold, Leopold Bros., Denver

Lance Winters, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA


Rising Star Chef of the Year (Presented by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water)
Will Aghajanian and Liz Johnson, The Catbird Seat, Nashville

Irene Li, Mei Mei, Boston

Gaby Maeda, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Ashleigh Shanti, Benne on Eagle, Asheville, NC

Paola Velez, Kith/Kin, Washington, D.C.

Jon Yao, Kato, Los Angeles


Best Chefs (Presented by Capital One)

Best Chef: California
Jeremy Fox, Birdie G's, Santa Monica, CA

Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu's, San Francisco

Mourad Lahlou, Mourad, San Francisco

Joshua Skenes, Angler, San Francisco

Pim Techamuanvivit, Kin Khao, San Francisco


Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe, Chicago

Gene Kato, Momotaro, Chicago

Noah Sandoval, Oriole, Chicago

John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth, Chicago

Erick Williams, Virtue, Chicago

Lee Wolen, Boka, Chicago


Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Amy Brandwein, Centrolina, Washington, D.C.

Nicholas Elmi, Laurel, Philadelphia

Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia

Jon Sybert, Tail Up Goat, Washington, D.C.

Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore


Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Steven Brown, Tilia, Minneapolis

Michael Corvino, Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, Kansas City, MO

Michael Gallina, Vicia, St. Louis

Jamie Malone, Grand Café, Minneapolis

Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai, Minneapolis


Best Chef: Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY)
Carrie Baird, Bar Dough, Denver

Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, Hell's Backbone Grill & Farm, Boulder, UT

Jeff Drew, Snake River Grill, Jackson, WY

Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, CO

Dana Rodriguez, Super Mega Bien, Denver

Kelly Whitaker, The Wolf's Tailor, Denver


Best Chef: New York State
Sean Gray, Momofuku Ko, NYC

Brooks Headley, Superiority Burger, NYC

Junghyun Park, Atomix, NYC

Daniela Soto-Innes, ATLA, NYC

Alex Stupak, Empellón, NYC


Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)
Vien Dobui, CÔNG TỬ BỘT, Portland, ME

Tiffani Faison, Orfano, Boston

Ben Jackson, Drifters Wife, Portland, ME

Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House, North Yarmouth, ME

Greg Mitchell and Chad Conley, Palace Diner, Biddeford, ME

Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, MA


Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA)
Peter Cho, Han Oak, Portland, OR

Gregory Gourdet, Departure, Portland, OR

Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush, Senia, Honolulu

Katy Millard, Coquine, Portland, OR

Kristen Murray, MÅURICE, Portland, OR

Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle


Best Chef: South (AL, AR, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, FL, LA, MS)
Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR

Michael Gulotta, Maypop, New Orleans

Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf, New Orleans

Isaac Toups, Toups' Meatery, New Orleans


Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC

Cassidee Dabney, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

Cheetie Kumar, Garland, Raleigh, NC

Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis

Julia Sullivan, Henrietta Red, Nashville


Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)
Dan Krohmer, Other Mama, Las Vegas

Jonathan Perno, Campo at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM

Chrysa Robertson, Rancho Pinot, Scottsdale, AZ

Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café Gran Reserva, Phoenix

Jeff Smedstad, Elote Cafe, Sedona, AZ

James Trees, Esther's Kitchen, Las Vegas


Best Chef: Texas
Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye, Austin

Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie, Austin

Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri, Houston

Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio

Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles, Houston


Read the full press release.

Through its Open for Good campaign, the Foundation is working to help the independent restaurant industry survive the COVID-19 crisis and come back stronger, more equitable, and more resilient. The Foundation’s vision is an industry in which everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive. Learn more about Open for Good.