Food News

Which Portlanders Were Named James Beard Award Nominees in 2023?

The competition narrows, with only a few of our local heroes left in the game. Stay tuned for the final awards in June.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton March 29, 2023

The James Beard Foundation announced the nominees for its 2023 Best Chef and Restaurant awards on March 29. Ten Oregon chefs and restaurants made it to the semifinals, which were announced in January. But now, only one Portland restaurant and three Oregon chefs remain.

Though two Oregon restaurants were named Best Restaurant semifinalists—Gregory Gourdet’s Kann and Matthew Lightner’s Okta in McMinnville—only Kann made it through to the next round. We’re rooting for Okta in its future projects, including a summer solstice food festival this June. And we’ve got big hopes that Kann, our Restaurant of the Year 2022, will take home the Best Restaurant award. Gourdet’s restaurant is innovative, vibrant, and just plain delicious—who can argue with butterfish with watermelon granita, peanut creamed greens, or a coffee-rubbed wood-fired beef rib?

We had three Portlanders in the running for Best Chef Northwest: Peter Cho from Han Oak, Vince Nguyen from Berlu, and Thomas Pisha-Duffly from Gado Gado. Both were also nominees for the award in 2022. Sadly, Peter Cho is no longer in contention for the award. Nguyen was named our Chef of the Year 2022 for his ambitious, boundary-busting take on Vietnamese tasting menus. Meanwhile, Pisha-Duffly is working on opening a new bar-restaurant and keeping strong at Gado Gado and Oma’s Hideaway. There were also three Oregonians from outside Portland in the running. While Jonathan Jones of  Epilogue Kitchen & Cocktails in Salem and Crystal Platt of Lion & Owl in Eugene are out of the competition, one remains: Joshua Dorcak, the chef at MÄS in Ashland, which promises "Cascadian cuisine" and a 12-course tasting menu that intriguingly lists "Tidal Pool" as one of its courses.

Though we had two nominees in the Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages category—wine bar-restaurant OK Omens and Hood River’s Hiyu Wine Farm—neither made it to the next round. The wine program at OK Omens is really something special, unfussy yet totally immersive. Last time we visited, super-approachable sommelier Brent Braun suggested a white wine to pair with a scallop crudo that completely transformed the flavor of the seafood, bringing out all its buttery, briny, and fruity notes. Among the five finalists are Lazy Bear in San Francisco and COTE in New York City. 

One of the advancements we're most excited about is the Burgerville Workers Union, which is in the running for the Emerging Leadership Award. In late 2021, the union successfully negotiated protections for about 100 employees at five stores, which included a three-month set schedule, paid vacation time, paid parental leave, and increased job safety and security. Some negotiations extended to all locations, including allowing tips and loosening dress codes. It's the first legally recognized fast-food union in the entire country.

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