The 2023 James Beard Awards, which have been dubbed the Oscars of the culinary world, recognized many Asian American chefs, restaurants and restaurateurs in the U.S. at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday night.
Notably, Asian American chefs won an astounding eight out of the 12 best regional chef categories.
The awards were first presented in 1991 by nonprofit organization the James Beard Foundation after the death of American chef and TV personality James Beard as a way “to celebrate, support and elevate the people behind America’s food culture.”
The foundation has faced controversies in the past few years, including in 2020 and 2021 when they scrapped the ceremonies due to accusations of racism and ethics violations. The foundation has since created a new code of ethics that takes diversity into consideration as well as chefs’ behaviors.
See the list below for this year’s Asian American winners:
Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group in Philadelphia was named outstanding restaurateur of the year. Yin, a five-time finalist for the award, is known for her numerous contributions in the restaurant scene, from organizing relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to her efforts with the Wonton Project, which fund groups to help combat anti-Asian discrimination.
Filipino American chef Margarita Lorenzana-Manzke, who was born and raised in the Philippines, won a James Beard Award in the outstanding pastry chef or baker category. Along with her fellow chef and husband Walter Manzke, Lorenzana-Manzke co-owns the Los Angeles-based restaurant République, which features a French-inspired menu.
Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon
Thai chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon of Kalaya in Philadelphia won best chef: Mid-Atlantic. Suntaranon previously owned an Italian restaurant in Bangkok before moving to Philadelphia in 2010. Her restaurant, which opened in 2019, celebrates the cuisine of southern Thailand.
Korean chef Junghyun Park was named the best chef in the state of New York. Along with his wife and manager Ellia Park, he co-owns the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Atomix, which is inspired by Korean traditions and technique.
Tim Flores and Genie Kwon
Filipino American Tim Flores and his wife, pastry chef Genie Kwon, who is of Korean descent, won the best chef: Great Lakes award for their Filipino restaurant Kasama in Chicago. Kasama, which operates as a bakery and modern restaurant, is the first Filipino restaurant in the world to obtain a Michelin star.
Benchawan Jabthong Painter
Thai chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter won the James Beard Award for best chef in the state of Texas. Painter, best known as chef “G,” owns the Houston restaurant Street to Kitchen, which serves traditional Thai street food.
Thai chef Justin Pichetrungsi was named the best chef in California. He owns Anajak Thai, which was named “Restaurant of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times in 2022. Pichetrungsi took over his father’s then-40-year-old restaurant in Sherman Oaks and enhanced the menu with his creative dishes and compelling natural wines.
Vietnamese chef Vince Nguyen took home the James Beard Award for best chef: Northwest and Pacific. Nguyen owns the Portland-based restaurant Berlu, where he serves Vietnamese food, including sweet treats, street foods and noodle soups.
Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger
Japanese chef Itaru Nagano and his co-owner and chef, Andrew Kroeger, claimed the best chef: Midwest award for their Fairchild Restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, where they serve creative meat plates, seafood and pasta. Nagano, who first started cooking at a Japanese restaurant, has worked under many James Beard Award-winning chefs, including Jose Andres, Tom Colicchio and Tory Miller.
Japanese chef Kris Komori took home Idaho’s first-ever James Beard Award by claiming the best chef: mountain title. Komori, who has been a semi-finalist to win the award five times, is the co-owner of KIN in downtown Boise, where he serves a five-course food and beverage experience.
The Quarry Fine Dining in Monson, Maine, has been awarded the James Beard Award for outstanding hospitality. The restaurant, which opened in 2018, is owned by Filipino chef Marilou Ranta, who previously worked as a maid in the Philippines before moving to the U.S.
Echo Park’s Ototo, a Japanese pub in Los Angeles, won in the outstanding wine or other beverages program category. Ototo, which opened as a sister restaurant to Tsubaki in 2019, features an impressive 24-page drink menu.
Bar Leather Apron
Honolulu’s Bar Leather Apron won in the outstanding bar category, bringing home Hawaii’s first national James Beard Award. The bar, which is owned by Tom Park and Justin Park (no relation), serves world-class cocktails and offers over 500 diverse whiskey bottles.