On Wednesday, the James Beard Award announced its finalists for its first awards in two years. Only three Seattle chefs and restaurants are still in the running for awards out of the eleven chefs, four restaurants, and one baker from Washington who were 2022 James Beard Award semifinalists.
That’s many fewer finalists than Seattle could have had, considering the long list of semifinalists, which had six nominees — including Aaron Verzosa of Archipelago and star chef Melissa Miranda of Musang — for the best chef: Northwest award.
But two of the remaining nominees in Seattle are up for national awards. Renee Erickson’s seafood-focused Ballard restaurant, The Walrus and the Carpenter — which exemplifies the chef’s focus on celebrating Pacific Northwest ingredients in a friendly, casual setting — is in the running for the outstanding restaurant award, which goes to “a restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations while contributing positively to its broader community,” according to the James Beard Foundation.
Meanwhile, Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi are finalists for outstanding chef for their menu at Joule, Fremont’s Pacific Northwest Korean restaurant famous for its Washington beef short rib kalbi with grilled kimchi. The outstanding restaurant award goes to “a restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations while contributing positively to its broader community.”
The one remaining Seattle finalist for best chef: Northwest, is soba master Mutsuko Soma, whose Fremont restaurant Kamonegi serves nationally renowned soba noodles, local meat and seafood, and creative desserts like tempura Samoa Girl Scout cookies.
In Oregon, Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom of Portland restaurants Thai restaurants Hat Yai and Langbaan finally nabbed outstanding restaurateur finalist recognition, while Carlo Lamagna (Magna Kusina), Vince Nguyen (Berlu), Thomas Pisha-Duffly (Oma’s Hideaway), and Jonathan Jones (Epilogue Kitchen & Cocktails in Salem) are still in the running for best chef: Northwest.
Over the last two years, the James Beard Foundation took a hiatus to reshape its categories and nomination practices, responding to mounting criticism and an audit of the organization and its awards. The James Beard Foundation will announce the winners in Chicago on June 13, 2022.