It’s a Banner Year for Filipino Chefs in the Prestigious James Beard Awards, Congrats to All Winners and Nominees

Filipino cuisine is a big part of Filipino culture. Slowly but surely, we see our cuisine’s popularity growing especially in communities with large Filipino populations in California, Hawaii, New York-New Jersey, Nevada and Washington state.

Spearheading this movement, the Filipinization of Pinoy cuisine into the mainstream American culinary landscape, are the bold restauranteurs and chefs willing to take the risk in bringing this burgeoning ethnic food to the masses with their Filipino restaurants.

The restaurant business is already super competitive and risky to begin with. So, these Filipino restauranteurs and chefs deserve our community’s support and respect for their valiance to put so much at stake personally to help promote our cuisine and culture.

James Beard Foundation 2023 winners
We’re so pleased that the industry’s elite responsible for the James Beard Awards, the Oscars equivalent in the food and hospitality industry, are taking notice of our Filipino chefs and restaurants.

This year is a breakthrough banner year for Filipinos. The 2023 James Beard Award Chef and Restaurant Winners include three Filipino American restaurants-chefs, two nominees apart from the three who won, and a FilAm winner of the James Beard Award in the social media category (promoting food).

Genevieve Villamora, a judge in this year’s James Beard Awards, said “A younger generation of Filipino Americans in the restaurant industry is having more confidence to have their restaurant be a Filipino restaurant instead of, like, a French bistro or, like, a pasta-wine bar.”

Tim Flores and Genie Kwon
(husband and wife), owners and chefs of the Filipino restaurant Kasama in Chicago won in the Best Chef: Great Lakes (Il, IN, MI, OH) category. Kasama is one of only a handful of Michelin-starred Filipino restaurants in the world. Last year, Tim and Genie were also named Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs. They recently appeared this year on Good Morning America during Asian Week to demonstrate their version of chicken adobo.

Kasama is unique. In the day it is part fast-casual operation, part bakery. And at night, it transforms into a fine-dining restaurant that takes Filipino cuisine to the highest level. An example of Flores’ artistry is his theatrical version of kinilaw. Flores cures raw fish with calamansi vinegar, drizzles it with a fruity olive oil, tops it with golden caviar pearls – then smokes the entire dish.

Margarita Manzke
of restaurant Republique in Los Angeles won in the category Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker. Born and raised in the Philippines, Margarita Manzke opened several award-winning concepts in Los Angeles, including RépubliquePetty Cash TaqueriaSari Sari StoreBicyclette, and Manzke. République has continued to make its mark on the culinary landscape of Los Angeles as a frequent entry on the Los Angeles Times “101 Best” List and one of Restaurant Critic Bill Addison’s most recommended LA restaurants to both friends and readers. In addition to her other restaurants, Manzke is well known for her Sari Sari Store in the historic Grand Central Market, which brings a fresh take on the Filipino food of her upbringing to Downtown Los Angeles.

Marilou Ranta
, chef/owner of Filipino fine-dining restaurant the Quarry in Maine won in the Outstanding Hospitality category. This category not only recognizes a restaurant that fosters a sense of hospitality among its customers and staff but must also demonstrate consistent excellence in food. Ranta grew up on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines and worked as a maid. She opened the Quarry in 2018.

Erwan Heussaff
, content creator won the broadcast media award in the social media category for his Instagram account @erwan. He is the founder of The Fat Kid Inside Studios which runs the YouTube channel FEATR, which has a focus on Philippine cuisine and culture.

Nominees:
The 2023 nominees were Vince Bugtong chef/owner of Abaca in San Francisco, in the Outstanding pastry Chef or Baker category and Aaron Verzosa chef/owner of Archipelago in Seattle who was up for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific.

In 2022, there were five James Beard Award nominations for Filipino Americans from Seattle, Oakland, Asheville, N.C. and Los Angeles. None of the nominees won last year.

In 2021-2020, Filipinos Dale Talde of Goosefeather in Tarrytown, NY was up for the Best Chef: New York State, while five Fil-Am chefs duked it out for the Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA) award – Carlo Lamagna, Magna Kusina (Portland, OR); Melissa Miranda, Musang (Seattle); Sheldon Simeon, Tin Roof (Kahului, HI); Jojo Vasquez, Fond (Lahaina, HI); and Aaron Verzosa, Archipelago (Seattle).

In 2019, FilAm Tom Cunanan won the James Beard Award in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category for his work at Bad Saint in Washington.

In 2019, FilAm Sheldon Simeon from Hawaii, a Top Chef finalist, had his restaurant Lineage in Maui nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.

Congratulations to this year’s and former winners, and all the nominees of the James Beard Awards. Your work are important contributions to our community’s collective Filipino-American experience and helps to promote our food and culture to the rest of America.

Thank you to the James Beard Foundation for recognizing these chefs.

We encourage our readers and community to continue to support our Filipino restauranteurs and chefs on the mainland and locally. If you think you’ve tried them all in Hawaii, there is at least one new Filipino restaurant we’re aware of in Ward that’s worth trying. Spread the word among your family and friends of all the Filipino food establishments you’ve enjoyed. This is how we can support each other. Mabuhay to our Filipino chefs and restaurateurs.

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