Jun 10, 2024 - News

Arizona chef Rene Andrade wins 2024 James Beard Award

A man smiling and wearing a medallion.

Bacanora's Rene Andrade after winning a James Beard Award. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Bacanora's Rene Andrade is bringing home a coveted James Beard Award after being crowned Best Chef Southwest in Chicago on Monday night.

Why it matters: The James Beard Foundation's awards are among the highest honors in the culinary arts and have the power to put restaurants on the national map.

Zoom in: Bacanora opened in 2021 on Grand Avenue. Andrade is also a co-owner of Espiritu in Mesa and Huarachis Taqueria in downtown Phoenix.

  • Each restaurant is beloved locally for serving traditional Mexican fare with a modern twist.
  • Bacanora is most acclaimed for its wood-fired meats — a byproduct of Andrade's grill master skills.

What they're saying: In his acceptance speech, Andrade said he was inspired by his grandmother and by watching the love she put into her food as she cooked for their family.

  • "I just want to be like her. She's the representation of magic to me," he said.

What we're watching: Following his win, Andrade told Axios he's in the process of opening yet another restaurant that will pay respect to his Mexican roots.

  • He said he couldn't reveal the name just yet, but hinted that it would play on the word "classic."

The intrigue: Andrade also told us Phoenix is his home and he has no plans to leave.

  • He said he's part of a cohort of Arizona chefs who have forced a new appreciation of Mexican food. It's not just "cheap" eats, but dishes worthy of respect, he said.
  • "Mexican food is on the scale of big, big, big things and we have to keep it there," Andrade said. "We have to keep nurturing it."

Between the lines: Valentine's Crystal Kass was a finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker but lost out to Atsuko Fujimoto of Portland, Maine's Norimoto Bakery.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information and quotes.

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