WASHINGTON — For the foodies in town, the Oscars are only a warm-up to the real star of award show season: the James Beard Foundation Awards.
It seemed hard to follow D.C.'s big wins at the 2019 JBF Gala, as Kwame Onwuachi and Tom Cunanan took home the top honors in the Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic categories. But with 22 locals represented as semifinalists again this year, the momentum is strong.
The DMV was represented in every category except for Outstanding Baker, which Mark Furstenberg won in 2017, and Outstanding Bar Program, in which Columbia Room has been a contender for the past three years. Ashok Bajaj, who before 2019 had been named a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category since 2008, was once again left off the list.
Rooster & Owl, offering one of the city's most affordable tasting menus, and Thamee, D.C.'s only Burmese restaurant, were named as contenders in the highly anticipated "Best New Restaurant" category.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the semifinalists is the sheer volume of new names added. Often this announcement can leave us feeling all kinds of deja-vu with the same candidates nominated to the same category year after year (hello Jaleo for Outstanding Restaurant since 2013). But besides best new restaurant, we saw new names this year in the categories of: Outstanding Chef, Outstanding Pastry Chef, Oustanding Wine Program, and multiple new names in the mix for Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. Ten of the 22
Paola Velez, named a Rising Star Chef semifinalist as the executive pastry chef at Kith & Kin, may feel particular pressure as her boss, Onwuachi, took home the award in that same category.
Anju is racking up acknowledgments this year, as it was named the number one restaurant in D.C. by Washingtonian Magazine a few weeks ago. Now, the Korean restaurant has both its executive chef, Angel Barreto, and co-owner, Danny Lee, nominated for awards in the Rising Star and Best Chef categories.
Take a look below at who the 22 semifinalists are in which categories.
Best New Restaurant
Rooster & Owl
Ann Cashion, Johnny's Half Shell (winner Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2004)
Vikram Sunderam, Rasika (semifinalist since 2018; winner of Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2014)
Marcel’s (semifinalist since 2014, also in 2010 and 2011)
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Katherine Thompson, Thompson Italian (Falls Church, VA)
Jaleo (semifinalist since 2013)
Komi (semifinalist since 2018)
Ruth Gresser, Pizzeria Paradiso (semifinalist in 2019)
Outstanding Wine Program
Flight Wine Bar
Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Producer
Rutger de Vink, RdV Vineyards (semifinalist in 2019 and 2016)
Rising Star Chef of the Year
Angel Barreto, Anju
Daniela Moreira, Timber Pizza Co. (semifinalist in 2018)
Paola Velez, Kith/Kin
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Victor Albisu, Poca Madre (semifinalist at Del Campo in 2016)
Amy Brandwein, Centrolina (semifinalist since 2017)
Peter and Lisa Chang, Mama Chang (Fairfax, VA) (Peter Chang semifinalist in 2016 and 2015 for Peter Chang Cafe)
Zenebech Dessu, Zenebech Restaurant
Danny Lee, Anju
Cagla Onal-Urel, Green Almond Pantry
Peter Prime, Cane
Jon Sybert, Tail Up Goat (semifinalist in 2019)
You can see the full list of semifinalists here. Final nominees will be announced March 25 and the winners will be presented at the 2020 James Beard Awards Gala on May 4.