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Seattle’s J. Kenji López-Alt Wins James Beard Media Award for ‘The Wok’

The author, chef, and social media star took home his second JBA over the weekend

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Closeup of the James Beard Foundation award medal. James Beard Foundation
Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

On Saturday, June 3, the James Beard Foundation held its annual Media Awards, which honor journalists, cookbook authors, podcasters, scholars, and social media stars. A Seattle resident who is at least two of those things won big, as J. Kenji López-Alt took home the honors in the Book: Single Subject category for The Wok: Recipes and Techniques.

López-Alt is a familiar face in the food world. He became famous for his Serious Eats column “The Food Lab,” which was twice nominated for a JBA; it was turned into a 2015 book, The Food Lab: Better Cooking Through Science, which won a JBA (and a bunch of other awards). His relentlessly left-brained approach to cooking has inspired a whole generation of science-loving home cooks and netted him an enormous number of fans across Instagram and YouTube, where he has close to a combined 2 million followers and subscribers. Since 2019 he’s been contributing recipes to the New York Times.

In Seattle, where he moved in 2020, López-Alt has become known around town as one of the city’s most prominent food personalities — and most unintentionally powerful figures. As recounted in a Seattle Times story, he eats at a lot of restaurants in the area, and like most of us, documents his thoughts on social media. Unlike most of us, his reach is so strong that many businesses see a spike in sales after a positive review that some call “the Kenji effect.”

The Wok is both a massive trove of recipes as well as an argument for the utility of its namesake pan. Since this is López-Alt, there’s also a good bit of focus on the science of wok cooking — his trademark is not just telling you how to cook, but why.

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.