James Beard Award

Posted in Blog, General News on Wednesday, May 03, 2023

James Beard Award

The Washington food scene is home to some of the best chefs and restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. Locals can boast about access to a diverse selection of cuisine, from burgers to fine dining. Some of our local stars are receiving national recognition for their culinary talents and their community oriented, equity focused efforts in the restaurant industry. Spokane native and chef, Tony Brown, and Wenatchee’s own, David Nichols, have both received nominations for the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northwest and Pacific. Among the 20 nominees in this category, six Washington chefs have been recognized for their dedication and accomplishments in the culinary field. Washington is represented in nearly every sector of the awards this year, further proving that the Washington culinary scene is truly top tier.

Established more than 30 years ago, the James Beard Foundation is a non-profit organization that has aimed to “celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.”1 Each year, chefs, bakers, restaurants, and bars around the country are nominated and evaluated to win a prestigious James Beard award. This honor “recognizes exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrate commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”1

Who was Chef Beard?
Born in 1903 in Portland, Oregon, James had the heart of an entertainer, was expelled from college, and traveled abroad trying to make it in theater and movies. Without finding major success in either, in 1935 he started a catering business to support himself. He quickly found a passion for food and cooking. In 1940 he published his first cookbook and in 1955 he started his own cooking school. Known as perhaps the world’s first “foodie”, James will forever be a pillar of culinary excellence.

2023’s Local Nominees
Working in kitchens since he was 17, chef and restaurant owner, Tony Brown, has made an impressive career for himself in Spokane. Through favorites such as Stella's, Eyvind, Ruins, and Hunt, Brown has made his mark on the Inland Northwest. Ruins offers a rotating menu of various global cuisines, allowing guests to taste the flavors of the world right off Riverside. Ruins was featured on Washington Grown back in Season 7, and continues to be a neighborhood gem. Visit Hunt and you’ll indulge in Brown’s “elevated camp cooking” with a delicious cocktail created by one of their talented bartenders. Beyond pursuing his vision for food, Brown also made great efforts to support his community, especially during the pandemic. When speaking with Krem2 News he said, “It's been hard three years for restaurants, so having this kind of recognition is good for the city and the restaurant.”2

David Nichols grew up in Cashmere among the orchards and Wenatchee River. Now he and his brother Ian own and operate their restaurant, Eight Row, in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle. Eight Row is the culmination of their childhood experiences on their family farm and the people who helped raise them. The name itself refers to the largest size on a standard cherry gauge, a common tool used while harvesting fruit. They hope to tell a genuine American story through their food. You’ll taste flavors from Mexico and Central America, as well as pick up on notes from Northern Europe. Nichols strives to serve locally grown produce from family farms, including fruits grown on their own orchards. Building relationships with farmers has been a priority from the start.

Both Tony and David are more than deserving of their James Beard Award nominations. Incorporating global flavors, shining lights on farm stories, and valuing a fair, equitable workplace for their employees shows that they align with the James Beard Foundation mission and values.

We’d also like to give a shout out to the other Washington chefs that have been nominated in the Best Chef in the Northwest and Pacific category:

  • Dan Koomoo from Crafted in Yakima - Locally sourced, farm-to-table food
  • Melissa Miranda from Musang Seattle - Community driven Filipino food
  • Motsuka Soma from Kamonegi in Seattle - Handmade ni-hachi soba noodles and seasonal tempura
  • Aaron Versoza from Archipelago in Seattle - Purposeful conversations and filipino food

Best of luck to all of our nominated chefs this year. You make us proud!

  1. James Beard Awards website accessed May 1, 2023 https://www.jamesbeard.org/awards
  2. Dave Somers, "Spokane-based chef nominated for James Beard Award," KREM-2 News website accessed May 1, 2023 (https://www.krem.com/)