On Monday night, June 5, the James Beard Award Foundation held its annual awards ceremony for restaurants in Chicago. Two LA chefs and one LA restaurant came home with awards, resulting in a big night for the city’s dining scene. The winners were Margarita Manzke for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker, Anajak Thai’s Justin Pichetrungsi for Best Chef: West, and Ototo for Outstanding Wine or Other Beverages.
Last year, Los Angeles won no James Beard Awards even though four chefs were named finalists. This was Margarita Manzke’s sixth time as a finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef/Baker, and she finally brought home the award. Manzke was unable to attend last night’s ceremony but has helped establish Republique as one of the most impressive daytime bakeries and dessert menus in the country. Manzke also operates Sari Sari Store inside Grand Central Market, Petty Cash Taqueria, French bistro Bicyclette, and fine dining restaurant Manzke with her husband and partner Walter Manzke.
Another win came to Echo Park’s Ototo, operated by Courtney Kaplan and Charles Namba, for the category of Outstanding Wine or Other Beverages Program. Ototo, which opened as a sister restaurant to Tsubaki in 2019, serves one of the country’s most impressive and dedicated sake menus. Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Bill Addison called Ototo’s sake program the best in the city for featuring one of the deepest lists on the West Coast and also for its distinctive approach to serving seasonal sakes.
Anajak Thai’s Justin Pichetrungsi was among four chefs from Los Angeles and one from the Bay Area that were finalists for Best Chef: West. It seemed inevitable that LA would take this category, and indeed, Anajak Thai continued its impressive run of accolades with Justin Pichetrungsi winning the award.
Anajak Thai was named Restaurant of the Year by the Los Angeles Times in 2022 and has been a perennial pick on the Eater Essential 38 restaurants for the past few years. Eater LA first chronicled Justin Pichetrungsi’s journey taking over his father Rick Pichetrungsi’s then-40-year-old Thai restaurant in Sherman Oaks, with the younger Pichetrungsi imbuing the menu with tailored creativity and pairing the dishes with compelling natural wines.
On June 3, two chefs came home with accolades from the James Beard Awards for books and media. Kevin Bludso and Noah Galuten won the restaurant and professional category for cookbooks with Bludso’s BBQ Cookbook: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul while former Good Girl Dinette chef Diep Tran won for an essay with recipes for Food & Wine. Kevin Bludso’s cookbook chronicled his extensive career and incredible life story, growing up in Compton and eventually opening one of the most highly regarded barbecue restaurants in Los Angeles. In addition, Kyla Wazana Tompkins won an award for a personal essay without recipes for “On Boba,” written for the LARB Quarterly of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Other finalists who didn’t win but are worthy of mention include Gregory Dulan for Outstanding Restaurateur at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Dulan’s on Crenshaw, and Dulanville; Rashida Holmes for Emerging Chef at Bridgetown Roti; and Niki Nakayama for Outstanding Chef at N/Naka.
In addition, Eater LA senior reporter/editor Cathy Chaplin was a finalist for the Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award. Eater Portland editor Brooke Jackson-Glidden received the Jonathan Gold Local Voice award. Former Eater and current LA Times restaurant critic Bill Addison also received the Craig Claiborne distinguished restaurant review award.
Disclosures: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards. Eater partnered with the James Beard Foundation to livestream the awards in 2023. Eater LA reporter Mona Holmes is related to Rashida Holmes but was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.