Three D.C. Finalists Announced for 2023 James Beard Awards

It’s down to three from D.C.

In a live ceremony at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced their 2023 Restaurant and Chef award finalists as well as a smorgasbord of other honorees across 23 categories.

From the District’s 18 semifinalists (announced on Jan. 25) only three were winnowed to the finals.

For Outstanding Chef: Rob Rubba of Michelin-starred Oyster Oyster in the Shaw neighborhood. For Best New Restaurant: Blagden Alley’s hot new Peruvian spot Causa/Amazonia led by Chef Carlos Delgado. And, for Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic: Michael Rafidi of Michelin-starred Albi at Navy Yard. (Rafidi just opened Georgetown’s Yellow cafe at 1524 Wisconsin Ave. NW).

Last year, no final James Beard Award winners were named for the D.C. area.

“The James Beard Awards celebrate outstanding achievement and exceptional culinary talent, as well as all those doing incredible work on behalf of our communities and wider food system. This year’s nominees, winners, and honorees are inspiring exemplars of that,” said Clare Reichenbach, CEO, James Beard Foundation. “We congratulate all those recognized today and look forward to celebrating them at another exciting Awards Weekend in Chicago this June.”

Outstanding Chef: Rob Rubba

“Chef Rob Rubba — whose plant-centric restaurant, Oyster Oyster, was a finalist for Best New Restaurant last year — is in the running for Outstanding Chef. Rubba has been rightfully racking up accolades for his innovative, hyper-sustainable approach, including Food & Wine’s Best New Chef,” according to Washingtonian. “Rubba has impressed critics in the past year with his vegetable-based cooking; Food & Wine named him one of its best new chefs last year for the ‘energy and excitement’ he put into the menu at Oyster Oyster, and the restaurant was also awarded a Michelin star,” DCist reported.

Chef Rob Rubba of Oyster Oyster. Courtesy Oyster Oyster.

Best New Restaurant: Causa

“In the Best New Restaurant category, Shaw newcomer Causa and its thrilling Peruvian tasting menu are competing for the win against nine other national newbies,” Washingtonian reported. “Causa has received positive reviews for its relatively affordable tasting menu that sets sail on an experimental seafood voyage,” according to DCist.

Chef Carlos Delgado of Causa/Amazonia. LinkedIn.

Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic: Michael Rafidi

“The toughest competition among local chefs is typically the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category. But of the nine DC-area chefs who made the semifinalist list, only Michael Rafidi of wood-fired Levantine restaurant Albi in Navy Yard is left standing. All of the other finalists are located in Pennsylvania,” Washingtonian said. According to DCist, “Rafidi, who’s previously cooked at Spanish restaurant Arroz and modern French restaurant Requin, prepares Arabic food inspired by his Palestinian family roots at Albi. The Maryland native has already received plenty of local praise for his prolific career.”


Chef Michael Rafidi of Albi. Courtesy Albi.

The James Beard Foundation and Awards

The JBF’s Restaurant and Chef Awards — established in 1990 and first awarded in 1991 — are one of five separate recognition programs. “This Awards program celebrates excellence across a range of experiences, from fine-dining establishments to casual gems, and emerging talents to established masters,” according to JBF.

JBF is a “non-profit culinary arts organization based in James Beard’s former Greenwich Village townhouse” – now used as a “performance space” for visiting chefs – whose mission is to “celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone,” the foundation’s website says. The foundation has “launched a series of socially responsible initiatives in the past decade, including women’s entrepreneurial leadership programs and a “Chefs’ Boot Camp for Policy and Change” with the goals of “establish[ing] a more equitable and sustainable food system through education, advocacy and thought leadership.” In addition to food industry awards, JBF also offers educational initiatives, “scholarships for culinary students, publications, chef advocacy training and thought-leader convening.”

Despite JBF’s commitment to diversity, however, only a few women from D.C. were named as semifinalists this year and none made it to the finals round. These semifinalists included: Ris Lacoste of Ris for Outstanding Restaurant, Joy Crump of FOODE for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic, and Swati Bose and Kabir Amir of Flight Wine Bar for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program.

From the 2022 James Beard Awards at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago, IL. Image by Eliesa Johnson and Melissa Hesse of The Restaurant Project, 2022.

According to the JBF website, James Beard was “anointed the ‘Dean of American cookery’ by the New York Times in 1954… [and] laid the groundwork for the food revolution that has put America at the forefront of global gastronomy. He was a pioneer foodie, host of the first food program on the fledgling medium of television in 1946, the first to suspect that classic American culinary traditions might cohere into a national cuisine, and an early champion of local products and markets. [He also] nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who have changed the way we eat.”

On Monday, June 5 in Chicago, the final winners of the 2023 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony will be announced. From JBF, here’s a full list of finalists.






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