The James Beard Foundation announced its 2023 slate of semifinalists for its annual restaurant and chef awards today, January 25. The lineup includes clusters of chef contenders segmented out by region across America — Los Angeles, of course, being in the best chef: California category — as well as national awards like outstanding restaurateur, outstanding chef, and outstanding restaurant. There are also specific awards for hospitality, bar programs, pastry chefs, bakeries, and more, with greater LA names popping up across the semifinalist spectrum. Each name listed below will be winnowed down to a finalist list in the coming months ahead of the James Beard Foundation Award live gala and ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023.
For those unfamiliar, the James Beards are considered to be among the highest US-only honors for restaurant professionals and businesses alike. While Michelin is well known for its high-end stars and the World’s 50 Best tries to take an entirely global approach, the James Beards are seen as meaningful votes of confidence (as judged by food media professionals and other chefs and owners) for American bakers, bartenders, cooks, owners, and lots of other restaurant and hospitality workers in between.
This year’s long list of semifinalists includes more than a few familiar names, including Margarita Manzke — who has repeatedly been nominated in the outstanding pastry chef category, though she has yet to win. Other well-known names include Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, nominated in the best chef: California category, and Niki Nakayama of 10-year-old N/Naka, who is nominated in the overall outstanding chef category.
While the nominations, which stretch from the Central Coast down through Orange County, are themselves meaningful, in the past Los Angeles has been largely shut out of the actual award circle by the JBFA. Big wins have been few and far between for LA in recent years, with a few notable exceptions — like Providence chef Michael Cimarusti’s long overdue 2019 award. Still, the region is certainly flush with winning potential for 2023, and there’s hope for lots of hardware this year. Congratulations to all of the semifinalists.
Disclosures: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards. Eater LA reporter Mona Holmes is related to Rashida Holmes, but was not involved in this story or the awards selection process with the JBFA.
Best Chef: California
Rocio Camacho, Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen
Gilberto Cetina Jr., Holbox
Brandon Hayato Go, Hayato
Andrew and Michelle Muñoz, Moo’s Craft Barbecue
Justin Pichetrungsi, Anajak Thai
Michael Reed, Poppy & Seed, Anaheim
Daisy Ryan, Bell’s, Los Alamos
Carlos Salgado, Taco María
Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong, Jitlada
Greg Dulan, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen
Niki Nakayama, N/Naka
Best New Restaurant
Friends & Family
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Margarita Manzke, République
Here’s Looking at You
Outstanding Wine/Other Beverages
Esters Wine Shop & Bar