2022 James Beard Awards Reflect Restaurant Diversity

It’s time to give credit where credit is due. In the face of a litany of accusations and dissatisfaction with the 2020 process that called for a more inclusive and transparent process for awarding the James Beard Award to the country’s top restaurants and chefs, the 2022 awards present a much more diverse group of winners.

The foundation’s efforts following its external audit focused on a more diverse geographic and ethnic culinary mix across all price categories. This includes The Sioux Chef’s Best New Owanmi Restaurant, an Indigenous restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota run by Chef Sean Sherman, emerging chef Edgar Rico at Nixta Taqueria in Austin, Texas, and the exceptional Chai Pani Restaurant, an Indian restaurant in street food in Asheville, North Carolina.

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After conducting a nearly two-year audit, the James Beard Foundation has expanded its regional awards as part of instituting new policies and procedures in its judging process and establishing a new code of ethics. in response to allegations of lack of diversity and neglect of the leader’s poor behavior. when no black nominee won an award in 2020.

“The James Beard Foundation has heard calls from the restaurant community and the public for a more inclusive and transparent awards process, and we felt it was essential to take time to reflect on who and where we are. as an organization,” the foundation said. in a report. “We have recognized our responsibility as industry leaders and have begun the process of reviewing all elements of the rewards program and making comprehensive and meaningful changes.”

In turn, the winners recognized the power of winning a 2022 James Beard Award.

“Restaurants are so much bigger than the sum of what’s inside the four walls. A restaurant has the power to transform – transform the people who work there, transform the people who enter it, transform the communities we find ourselves in, transform society. Restaurants can transform the world,” said Meherwan Irani, Chef and Founder of Chai Pani, after receiving the award.

The awards were created over 30 years ago to highlight how food plays a central role in building community bonds and bringing culture to local people. In 2020, as the country faced a pandemic that devastated the industry and wider food systems, the James Beard Awards worked to respond to “social upheavals that laid bare racial injustice and inequality. existing in the industry and beyond.

In response, prices took a partial break in 2020 and remained absent in 2021, while the foundation refocused in response to an altered landscape. It’s no surprise there was palpable excitement to roll out the red carpet (and chic styles) again on June 11 in Chicago, the first live presentation since 2019.

Chef Sean Sherman at Owanmi by Sioux Chef's Kitchen
Heidi Ehalt

“It shows that we can get through this, that we are still here. Our people are here, our ancestors are proud tonight because we are doing something different. We put health on the table, we put culture on the table and we put our stories on the table,” Owanmi’s Sherman said after agreeing the reward.

By delivering a myriad of flavors from an assortment of fresh ingredients, the chefs say these award-winning restaurants and chefs not only provide customers with world-class cuisine, but inspire the next generation of foodies and product makers. food.

“Blacks and browns, immigrants, mom-and-pop shops are bubbling beneath the surface of this industry, working hard for a long time to establish our place in American cuisine. I stand on the backs of many of them and today a little black girl or a little black boy can consider themselves an exceptional future chef,” said exceptional chef Mashama Bailey of The Gray in Savannah, in Georgia, in his award speech.

You can find the full list of winners on the James Beard Foundation website.

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