3 big wins for PH at James Beard Awards
I would just like to join the nation in rejoicing over the win of not one, not two, but three Filipinos at the James Beard Awards.
This is a very prestigious annual award that recognizes chefs, restaurateurs, culinary authors and food-focused journalists in the United States. The awards are presented by the US-based James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a “mission to celebrate, support and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity and sustainability.”
Established in 1990, it was initially just for chefs and restaurateurs. But in 1993, a category for journalism was added; in 1994, broadcast media was added; and recently, the category Social Media Account.
This new category allowed famous blogger—now content creator—Erwan Heussaff to enter and win! The category “recognizes excellence in a single food-related post, or compilation of up to three posts, that clearly represents the intention of the Facebook page, Twitter account, TikTok account, Instagram feed, or other social media format.”
I really sincerely believe this is a well-deserved award for Heussaff, who has been producing truly award-winning content. By “award-winning” I mean insightful, well-researched, well-written and beautifully produced. He has taken a platform that no one really took seriously (Instagram was generally just for your day-to-day personal updates) and turned it into a space that is not only for entertainment but also for education and advocacy. He is using his popularity to bring matters of substance— whether it be exploring regional cuisine, preserving heritage cuisine or finding little known tourist spots—to the attention of the general public and to the consciousness of the world.
Another winner is Kasama, run by spouses and chefs Tim Flores and Genie Kwon. Chef Tim Flores was born and raised in the United States but his father is Kapampangan and his mother is Caviteña.
The world’s first Michelin-star Filipino restaurant clinched the Best Chef: Great Lakes award. This means Best Chef in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. (Chef Aaron Verzosa, another Filipino chef, was nominated for the Best Chef in the Northwest and the Pacific category.)
Kasama is a bakery and modern Filipino restaurant located in the East Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago. In less than two years since it opened, it was already recognized by the New York Times, Eater, Esquire, Chicago Tribune, among others. Last year, they received a Michelin star. The Michelin guide raved about Kasama’s menu, saying the chefs “have taken traditional Filipino cooking and given it a creative, contemporary spin in items such as maitake mushroom adobo sauced with mussel emulsion; pancit reflecting Spanish influence with thin squid ink noodles, scallop conserva and shaved Serrano ham; and Chef Kwon’s elegant take on halo-halo combining Asian pear granita, pandan ice cream.”
Finally, a Filipina bagged the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker award: Chef Margarita Lorenzana-Manzke of Los Angeles-based restaurant République.
Incidentally, among the chefs she bested is another Filipino, Chef Vince Bugtong of Restaurant Abaca restaurant in San Francisco.
Chef Margarita was born and raised in the Philippines, although she earned her degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She was already a finalist of the James Beard Awards in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category for four consecutive years (from 2017 to 2020).
Lucky for us, we can actually try her creations here in the Philippines as she also co-owns Wildflour!
It’s a really great year for Filipinos at the James Beard Awards. It’s wonderful seeing that spotlight on Filipino cuisine through these winners! Congratulations to all the winners and also to the Filipino finalists! Thank you for raising the Philippine flag high! Bravo! INQ