Today, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2023 semifinalists—the restaurants and individual chefs who are in contention for the American culinary world’s most prestigious award.
Seattle (and Washington) chefs made a strong showing in the Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific category, a regional honor we share with Oregon, Hawaii, and Alaska. But a handful of local names also appeared in the hyper-competitive national categories.
Renee Erickson is a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef; her Walrus and the Carpenter was a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant last year. Copine, a Ballard destination for special occasions, is up for Outstanding Restaurant. Meanwhile, Yenvy and Quynh Pham, the second-generation force behind Pho Bac, The Boat, and Phocific Standard Time, made their debut in the Outstanding Restaurateur category.
Seattle didn’t place in a few categories, though it’s lovely to see Rob Roy, Anu Apte’s distinguished cocktail bar in Belltown, is up for Outstanding Bar. During its audit that began in 2020, the James Beard Foundation removed the age requirement for what used to be the Rising Star Chef category. Ergo, you see guys like Beast and Cleaver owner Kevin Smith as a semifinalist in the new-ish Emerging Chef category, defined as a person “who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come, while contributing positively to their broader community.”
Washington, a state not exactly given to exacting or stuffy restaurant service, even fielded two candidates in Outstanding Hospitality: Lark on Capitol Hill and the Black Cypress in Pullman.
Seattle chefs Melissa Miranda (Musang), David Nichols (Eight Row), Mutsuko Soma (Kamonegi), and Aaron Verzosa (Archipelago) represent in the regional category, along with Dan Koommoo of Crafted in Yakima and Tony Brown of the Ruins in Spokane.
Two Portland-area spots are vying for Best New Restaurant: Gregory Gourdet’s Kann and Okta, Matthew Lightner’s project in McMinnville. Oregon also flexed in Outstanding Wine and Beverage Program, placing Hiyu Wine Farm in Hood River and Okay Omens, the casual sibling spot to Portland’s Castagna.
Local restaurant devotees will also recognize a few names in other categories, like original Mashiko owner Hajime Sato in the Outstanding Chef category. Mariela Camacho founded her Comadre Panadería here in Seattle; now she's based in Austin and up for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker.
Hooray for everybody! On March 29 this list will be winnowed down to five finalists in each category (10 in Best New Restaurant). Winners will be awarded in a ceremony June 5. Awkward and obligatory disclosure: I’m a member of the James Beard Award committee, though the names announced today are the result of many passionate people lending their sharpest insight, then overthinking and deliberating like hell.
Best of luck to all. Here’s the full list of semifinalists announced today, with the full array of Northwest and Pacific names below (apparently Honolulu has great bakeries).
Renee Erickson, The Walrus and the Carpenter
Yenvy and Quynh Pham, Phở Bắc Sup Shop, Phởcific Standard Time, The Boat, Seattle
Laile Fairbairn, Locally Grown Restaurants (Snow City Cafe, South Restaurant + Coffeehouse, Spenard Roadhouse), Anchorage
Outstanding Bar Program
Rob Roy, Seattle
Outstanding Wine and Beverage Program
Hiyu Wine Farm, Hood River
OK Omens, Portland
Kevin Smith, Beast and Cleaver, Seattle
Best New Restaurant
Nami Kaze, Honolulu
Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker
Michelle Karr-Ueoka, MW Restaurant, Honolulu
Fujiya Hawai‘i, Honolulu
The Black Cypress, Pullman
Best Chefs: Northwest and Pacific
Tony Brown, the Ruins, Spokane
Dan Koommoo, Crafted, Yakima
Melissa Miranda, Musang, Seattle
David Nichols, Eight Row, Seattle
Mutsuko Soma, Kamonegi, Seattle
Aaron Verzosa, Archipelago, Seattle
Peter Cho, Han Oak, Portland
Joshua Dorcak, MÄS, Ashland
Jonathan Jones, Epilogue Kitchen & Cocktails, Salem
Vince Nguyen, Berlu, Portland
Thomas Pisha-Duffly, Gado Gado, Portland
Crystal Platt, Lion & Owl, Eugene
Brian Hirata, Na‘au, Hawai‘i Island
Keaka Lee, Kapa Hale, Honolulu
Sheldon Simeon, Tiffany's, Wailuku
Robert Urquidi, Ethel's Grill, Honolulu
Lee Anne Wong, Papa‘aina, Lahaina
Nathan Bentley, Altura Bistro, Anchorage, AK
Beau Schooler, In Bocca Al Lupo, Juneau, AK
Renee Trafton, Beak Restaurant, Sitka, AK