The James Beard Foundation Awards gala was full of star power, emotion, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

By Maria Yagoda
March 04, 2019
Eliesa Johnson, Courtesy of the James Beard Foundation

On May 6, at the 2019 James Beard Awards gala in Chicago, the winners for the prestigious Chef and Restaurant categories were announced during a glitzy ceremony hosted by Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The evening was full of star-powered moments, and perhaps one of the most impactful was when Kith/Kin's Kwame Onwuachi, a 2019 Food & Wine Best New Chef and author of the recently published Notes from a Young Black Chef, picked up the Rising Star Chef of the Year award at the start of the evening. 

"As I stand on this stage I understand that I have a job to do; we all do," he said. "We can include everyone in the conversation of cooking. 54 years ago, the last restaurant was integrated and Jim Crow was lifted. And here I am, my ancestors’ wildest dreams." Onwuachi's big moment was soon followed by that of Kelly Fields, from Willa Jean in New Orleans, who won Outstanding Pastry Chef and kept it relatably real in her speech: "Oh god. If I throw up, I’m sorry! I want to thank my fellow nominees because they’re so talented."

Towards the end of the night, after many cameos from noteworthy presenters—including Zooey Deschanel and Ayesha Curry—the Outstanding Restaurant award was given to Zahav, Mike Solomonov's acclaimed restaurant in Philadelphia. And the last award of the evening was very worth the wait: Ashley Christensen, of Poole's Diner in Raleigh, N.C., was given the prestigious Outstanding Chef award.

Below, find the full list of James Beard Award winners for 2019. 

James Beard Award Winners

Outstanding Chef

Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Raleigh, NC)

Outstanding Restaurant

Zahav (Philadelphia)

Best New Restaurant

Frenchette (New York, NY)

Rising Star Chef of the Year

Kwame Onwuachi (Kith/Kin, Washington D.C.)

Outstanding Baker

Greg Wade (Publican Quality Bread, Chicago)

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Kelly Fields (Willa Jean, New Orleans)

Outstanding Restaurateur

Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm (Boka Restaurant Group, Chicago)

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer

Rob Tod (Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine)

Outstanding Bar Program

Bar Agricole (San Francisco)

Outstanding Wine Program

Benu (San Francisco)

Outstanding Service

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO)

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)

Ann Kim (Young Joni, Minneapolis)

Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY State, RI, VT)

Tony Messina (Uni, Boston)

Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)

Brady Williams (Canlis, Seattle)

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)

Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark (Parachute, Chicago)

Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV)

Michael Cimarusti (Providence, Los Angeles)

Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)

Mashama Bailey (The Grey, Savannah, GA)

Best Chef: South (AL, AR, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, FL, LA, MS)

Vishwesh Bhatt (Snackbar, Oxford, MS)

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)

Tom Cunanan (Bad Saint, Washington, D.C.)

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)

Charleen Badman (FnB, Scottsdale, AZ)

Best Chef: New York City

Jody Williams and Rita Sodi (Via Carota)

Outstanding Restaurant Design - 75 Seats and Under

Studio Writers, Atomix (NYC)

Outstanding Restaurant Design - 76 Seats and Over

Parts and Labor Design, Pacific Standard Time (Chicago)

Before the awards, the Chicago Athletic Association honored all the female James Beard Award nominees with a pre-ceremony toast.

Collin Pierson

2019 is a landmark year for the James Beard Foundation. For one, it's the year that the organization's sweeping policy change went into effect after new CEO Clare Reichenbach announced measures to make the judging process more transparent and inclusive. 

Big winners of the James Beard Foundation Media Awards, which took place in April, include Samin Nosrat, who won for best television program (on location) with her Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, and Marcus Samuelsson, who won the Outstanding Personality category for No Passport Required

JBF awards unofficially season kicked off in late February, when the semifinalists for the closely-followed Restaurant & Chef categories were announced. JBF also named five restaurants "American Classics," a category first introduced in 1998. The honorees were Pho 79 (Garden Grove, CA), Jim's Steak and Spaghetti House (Huntington, WV), A&A Bake & Double and Roti Shop (Brooklyn, NY), Sehnert's Bakery & Bieroc Café (McCook, NE), and Annie's Paramount Steakhouse (Washington, D.C.) 

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