Four Portland favorites — including cocktail bar Expatriate, Thai barbecue bar Eem, and Southeast Asian restaurant Gado Gado — made the finalist lists for the 2020 James Beard Awards, as well as four additional nominees for the regional Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific category.
Normally, around this time, Portland already knows its James Beard finalists. The restaurant and chef awards, often held in May, name some of the country’s most talented chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, and other food and beverage workers each year. This year, however, has been obviously atypical; in March, the foundation announced it would postpone its finalist announcement, as well as the final award ceremony originally scheduled to take place in Chicago on May 3. Instead, the foundation announced its awards via Twitter livestream.
During the semifinalist announcement in February, 17 Oregonians and Oregon businesses nabbed slots, including ones in national categories: For instance, Earl Ninsom of regional Thai restaurants Hat Yai and Eem was nominated for the Outstanding Restaurateur category, while both Eem and Gado Gado appear on the list of Best New Restaurant semifinalists.
However, not all of those Oregonians made the finalist lists. Beloved Vietnamese restaurant Ha VL did not make the cut for Outstanding Restaurant, multi-James Beard winner Gabriel Rucker won’t take home an Outstanding Chef award this year, and Ninsom has yet again been snubbed for Outstanding Restaurateur.
Rucker and Ninsom still have skin in the game in September: Ninsom’s restaurant Eem made the Best New Restaurant category, and Rucker’s Canard got a nod for its wine program, thanks to his co-owner and wine director Andy Fortgang. And outside the world of direct food and beverage service, another Portlander nabbed a journalism award nomination: Jordan Michelman, the co-founder of coffee blog Sprudge, received a nomination for his piece “Seltzer is Over. Mineral Water is Forever,” on Punch.
The award ceremony will be held September 25 in Chicago. See the full list of Portland nominees below:
Best New Restaurant
Outstanding Bar Program
Outstanding Wine Program
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific
Journalism: Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages
Jordan Michelman, “Seltzer is Over. Mineral Water is Forever.”
• James Beard Foundation [Official]
• Here Are the 2020 James Beard Awards Restaurant, Chef, and Media Finalists [Eater]
• Here Are Portland’s 2020 James Beard Awards Semifinalists [EPDX]
• James Beard Foundation Postpones Finalist Announcement Due to Coronavirus [E]
• James Beard Foundation Postpones Awards Due to Coronavirus Concerns [E]
• The 2020 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Postponed Until September [E]
Update Monday, May 4, 2020, at 6:06 p.m.
This story has been updated to include Jordan Michelman’s journalism award nomination.