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Portland’s 2019 James Beard Finalists Vie for Best Chef Northwest

Shut out of the national game, Oregon’s top chefs are still going strong for regional honors.

By Benjamin Tepler March 27, 2019

Peter Cho is a finalist for the James Beard Award's 2019 Best Chef Northwest

In February, the James Beard Foundation announced its list of semi-finalists for the 2019 James Beard Awards, which included 16 Oregon-based chefs and restaurants. Today, they whittled it down to a select few.

Three Portland chefs will go up against two Seattle bigwigs for the title of Best Chef Northwest. They are Peter Cho (Han Oak), Katy Millard (Coquine), and Justin Woodward (Castagna). The competition: Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi from Joule (the duo also owns Revelry in Central Eastside Portland) and Brady Williams from Canlis.

The only other Oregonian recognized is Austin Bush, who is up for a James Beard Foundation Book Award for his The Food of Northern Thailand. Bush, a native Oregonian and U of O alum, is well-known for his work on the best-selling Pok Pok cookbook, co-written by Andy Ricker and JJ Goode. 

Despite having some serious players in the mix for national awards, including PoMo Restaurant of the Year 2018, Canard, for the foundation’s Best New Restaurant, Portland didn’t rank in the nationwide categories this year.

Wondering who will take home the honor of Best Chef Northwest? Our odds are on Cho, a first time finalist who has a sizeable East Coast following from his time with The Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield. The last few years have been big for Cho: he spoke at TedX Portland in 2018. In 2019, former New York Times food critic Sam Sifton called out his short rib galbijjim in the New York Times Magazine. Later this year, he'll appear in the second season of David Chang's Ugly Delicious on Netflix. His restaurant, Han Oak, was our 2017 Restaurant of the Year.    

Aside from Brady Williams, the rest of the contenders are veteran Beard candidates—any of whom could take home the gold when the James Beard Awards are announced on May 6 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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