The James Beard Foundation announced a bit of redistricting, which will change the way Washington State nominees compete for the Best Chef award. The changes, which go into effect for the 2020 James Beard Awards, will move California out of the “West” region and into a category all its own. Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii will compete in a “Northwest and Pacific” category. Texas is also getting its own category, which means some shuffles for other regions, too.
Per a press release, the changes are intended “to recognize changing population data, restaurant demographics, and culinary trends.” Alaska has long had to compete in the same category as Washington and Oregon, so the shuffles seem more significant for Hawaii, which was competing with California. Perhaps now the immense culinary talent coming from the islands will get more recognition when not going up against chefs in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco — or maybe they’ll continue to be unfairly overshadowed by chefs in bigger markets like Seattle and Portland. To be determined.
Other changes include the new “Mountain” category comprising Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming; the Southwest category comprising Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Nevada; and the change from Best Chef: New York City to Best Chef: New York State. All together, the redistricting brings the Best Chef regions up to 12 from 10. The Foundation is also adding one more America’s Classics nominee, bringing that awards category up to six annual honorees.