Not a single award went to Portlanders at this year’s James Beard Awards. The James Beard Foundation held the 2019 awards in Chicago May 6, honoring chefs like Kwame Onwuachi of Washington DC’s Kith and Kin and pastry chef Kelly Fields of New Orleans’ Willa Jean. Arguably the largest honor in the United States restaurant world, the James Beard Awards celebrate some of the country’s best restaurant and beverage talent.
This year, no Portland semifinalists became national category nominees, which only left Best Chef: Northwest. Peter Cho of contemporary Korean favorite Han Oak, Katy Millard of Mount Tabor staple Coquine, and Justin Woodward of fine dining stalwart Castagna all received nominations in the category, as well as Seattle’s Brady Williams (Canlis) and Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi (Joule). Yang also owns Revelry in Portland. Williams took home the award this year.
Coquine has developed both a national and local following for several meals each day: The restaurant is a breakfast haunt for rye pancakes and chickpea socca, a lunch mainstay for seasonal soups, and a dinner jaw-dropper for delicate pastas and the most effortlessly delightful roast chicken. Chef Millard spent a significant portion of her career cooking in France, before joining the opening team at San Francisco’s Coi. She and her partner Ksandek Podbielski opened Coquine in 2015 after two years searching for a location; since then, she has been nominated three times for this award.
Castagna, a longstanding Portland destination for its intricate chef’s tasting menus, existed before chef Woodward joined the kitchen. That being said, when he began working for the restaurant, he brought with him a stunning culinary background, including time at René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen and Andoni Luis Aduriz’s Mugaritz in San Sebastián, Spain. He became the executive chef in 2011, taking on a Portland institution with aplomb, with wildly creative and notably refined several-course tasting menus. Woodward has been nominated five times for the award.
Han Oak might be one of Portland’s most fun restaurants. If it feels like a friend’s home, that’s because it is — Cho and his family live above the restaurant, making the casual front lawn of the somewhat hidden Korean restaurant a prime location for something like a dinner party. But the food goes far beyond the generic summer cookout; in fact, Cho’s super-juicy fried chicken, deeply layered galbijjim (thanks, in part, to a can of Coke), and profoundly rich noodle soups make it one of the city’s finest restaurants, all served in one of the city’s most comfortable. This is Peter Cho’s first time nominated for the award.
None of those chefs took home awards this year — hopefully that will change in 2020.
• James Beard Foundation [Official]
• Here Are the Portland Nominees for the 2019 James Beard Awards [EPDX]
• Here Are Portland’s 2019 James Beard Awards Semifinalists [EPDX]
• Previous Castagna coverage [EPDX]
• Previous Coquine coverage [EPDX]
• Previous Han Oak coverage [EPDX]