James Beard Award winners see higher inclusion of women and people of color

Chef Edouardo Jordan becomes first African-American to win Best New Restaurant.

James Beard Awards were distributed on Mon., May 7 at the annual awards ceremony that took place in Chicago and Chef Edouardo Jordan and his team took home the prize for Best New Restaurant for Seattle's JuneBaby.

JuneBaby features Southern cuisine, also considered to be soul food.  Chef Jordan is known for new approaches to classic Southern dishes.  Some fan favorites of his dishes including the famous Buttermilk Biscuits & pure cane syrup, Salt & Pepper Brisket Sandwich, Fried Catfish, Pork Neck Bones, Pimento Cheese, Shrimp Gumbo and their wonderful desserts including Toffee Pecan Bread Pudding.

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Chef Jordan is the first African-American to earn that prize, however, he also picked up an award for Best Chef in the Northwest for his other restaurant Salare, as reported by the New York Times.

Something delightfully different about this year's winner is that there was a much larger representation of women and people of color than had been seen in the James Beard Award winners circle in the past.

According to the James Beard Foundation website, here are some of the highlights.

• Best New Restaurant: JuneBaby, Seattle
• Outstanding Baker: Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, B. Patisserie, San Francisco
• Outstanding Chef: Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune, NYC
• Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL
• Outstanding Restaurant: Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL
• Outstanding Restaurateur: Caroline Styne, The Lucques Group, Los Angeles
(Lucques, a.o.c., Tavern, and others)
• Rising Star Chef: Camille Cogswell, Zahav, Philadelphia

Gabrielle Hamilton restaurateur and writer won the national award for Outstanding Chef for Prune in the East Village in Manhattan.

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Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama earned the Outstanding Restaurant after nine years of nominations with both founding chef and owner Frank Stitt and pastry chef Dolester Miles.

Chef José Andrés earned the 2018 Humanitarian of The Year for his selfless work feeding the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

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When the James Beard Award nominees were announced in April, they mentioned the inclusion of a morality clause given the many accusations of inappropriate sexual behaviors of some of the past winners as part of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

While none of the former award winners who had been accused of misconduct have been stripped of their awards, the nomination committee was told to consider the character as well as the culinary achievements.

The James Beard Awards were founded in 1990.  You can find the full list of winners on the James Beard Foundation’s website here.

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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