Michael Rafidi, Masako Morishita Get Top Honors at James Beard Awards

By David Edwards

Not one, but two of Washington, D.C.’s chefs have won some of the highest honors in the culinary world at the 2024 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards presented in Chicago on June 10.

Michael Rafidi—owner and chef of Albi, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Navy Yard specializing in Levantine fare—received the 2024 award for Outstanding Chef. Masako Morishita—executive chef of Perry’s, a fixture in Adams Morgan since 1984, serving Japanese dishes, sushi, and cocktails—won the 2024 award for Emerging Chef.

Albi, Rafidi’s debut restaurant, opened in February 2020 and draws on his family connections to Palestine, featuring traditional coal fired dishes from the region combined with local ingredients and Rafidi’s culinary expertise. The centerpiece of the restaurant is a large wood-burning hearth. Morishita joined Perry’s as their executive chef in 2022; before arriving at Perry’s, she started a comfort food pop-up called OTABE and later became executive chef at Maxwell Park. Both chefs were already frequent subjects of praise and attention, receiving coverage and awards from Eater DC, the Washington Post, Esquire, and more.

Rafidi has also opened a sister restaurant to Albi, Yellow, in Georgetown in 2022. Yellow offers a slightly more casual dining experience but maintains a commitment to high quality, tasty Levantine-inspired cuisine, and has proven quite popular. A new location in Union Market is expected to open in 2024.

The winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, MJ, PA, VA) was awarded to Harley Peet, executive chef of Bas Rouge in Easton, Maryland. Bas Rouge is a self-described “contemporary European” restaurant taking advantage of local produce, seafood, meats and combining them with rare ingredients from around the world.

The embarrassment of culinary riches had by Washington, D.C., with two James Beard winners in the District and third in the Washington area, has been noticed before. Research by Chef’s Pencil revealed that Washington has the most Michelin-starred restaurants per capita of any U.S. city, and third in the entire world, with 25 restaurants to a population of 689,545. Only Kyoto, Japan, and Paris, France, top D.C. globally.

As Rafidi and Morishita continue working on new dishes and opening new locations, all we have to do is sit back and wait to taste more of their award-wining food.



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