Jan 24, 2024 - News

Portland scores big on James Beard semifinalist list

Illustration of a trophy wearing a chef's hat

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Oregon's food and beverage scene again made a big showing in the 2024 semifinalists list for the prestigious James Beard awards, announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: Eight Portland-area chefs and restaurants — from pizzerias to bakeries to wine bars — are officially in the running for the industry's premier recognition for tastemakers and trendsetters.

  • Oregon nabbed 11 spots on the semifinalists list, including McMinnville's Hayward for best new restaurant.
  • In the running for best chef in the Northwest and Pacific category: Ashland-based Josh Dorcak of MÄS, Okta's two Michelin-starred chef Matthew Lightner, Gregory Gourdet of Kann, Nodoguro's Ryan Roadhouse and Peter Vuong of Ha VL.

Why it matters: Portland may have once been considered a darling food city known for its DIY-style culture and bustling food cart scene.

  • But after years of securing high marks in national best-of lists and acclaimed restaurateurs winning top awards (remember: James Beard is from here), Rose City is proving it can compete with much larger metropolitans.

And if last year is any indication, we're more than well-equipped to sweep the whole thing.

State of plate: Sarah Minnick of Lovely's Fifty Fifty is the only Oregon chef up for outstanding chef — perhaps one of the highest honors — and has been a semifinalist twice in the past.

  • Her dedication to seasonal ingredients and reinventing pizza was showcased in the Netflix docuseries "Chef's Table" — where Minnick could be seen clipping flowers from her garden as a topping for a pizza accompanied by chanterelles, with no cheese or sausage in sight.

Meanwhile, Langbaan, the Thai tasting-menu restaurant heralded by renowned chef Earl Ninsom, made the long list for outstanding restaurant — a recognition "that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere [and] hospitality."

  • Speaking of hospitality: If you've ever booked a late-night reservation at Han Oak and had the pleasure of singing karaoke with former James Beard-finalists Peter Cho and Sun Young Park, you'll understand its outstanding hospitality nomination.

Zoom in: OK Omens, the Ladd's Addition wine bar, was nominated for its beverage program and Jinju Patisserie for outstanding bakery.

What we're watching: Finalists will be announced on April 3, and winners will be announced on June 10 in Chicago.

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