The James Beard Foundation announced its 2023 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists on January 25. As you’d expect, there are plenty of Portland and greater Oregon restaurants and chefs in the mix, and on March 29 we’ll find out the finalists. Here are the local chefs and restaurants in the running to win.
Best New Restaurant
Surprising no one, Kann vaulted into this year’s best new restaurant nominees. Chef Gregory Gourdet’s contemporary Haitian-inspired restaurant is still one of the hardest reservations to snag in town, and some pretty cool local publications, including this one, named Kann their restaurant of the year in 2022.
But outside the city, Okta in McMinnville is also in contention. Headed by two-Michelin-starred chef Matthew Lightner, the restaurant boasts its own farm and fermentation lab, and PoMo critic Karen Brooks found several showstopping dishes. Another kicker? Feast's Mike Thelin called Okta "the most ambitious restaurant in Portland history.”
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific
Peter Cho, Han Oak; Vince Nguyen, Berlu; Thomas Pisha-Duffly, Gado Gado
Three of the hottest names in town are all in the running at once; we only wish they could all win. PoMo food critic Karen Brooks named Vince Nguyen our Chef of the Year 2022 thanks to his imaginative Vietnamese-inspired tasting menu. Han Oak is another Karen Brooks favorite, beloved for both hot pot and barbecue in a house party environment (stay afterward for karaoke). Thomas Pisha-Duffly was also in contention for the award last year, though for his more casual restaurant, Oma’s Hideaway. We’re rooting for any and all of them to win.
Outside the city, Joshua Dorcak, MÄS, Ashland; Jonathan Jones, Epilogue Kitchen & Cocktails, Salem; and Crystal Platt, Lion & Owl, Eugene were also nominated. Now we know where we’re stopping on our next road trip.
Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program
It’d be difficult to count how many restaurants in town offer stellar wine lists. But the one at OK Omens, headed by sommelier Brent Braun, is especially hard not to love, with recent tasting notes for a glass of natural Italian red wine reading, “Tastes like eating spiced cherries with a horse in a hotel room.” Though the food at OK Omens is delightful even without wine, from cheesy beignets to scallop crudo to science-experiment banana splits, ask Braun to pick out wines for you and watch the flavors reach new depths.
Who Got Snubbed?
With no shortage of fabulous bakeries in town, we wish one of our favorites like Bakeshop, Jinju, Baker and Spice, or even restaurant-meets-bakery Sweedeedee had made it to the best bakeries or best pastry chef/baker lists.
And if we were to compile the Outstanding Bar list, we’d certainly put one of our favorite cocktail bars (and hidden restaurants), Scotch Lodge, in contention.