Jun 5, 2023 - Food and Drink

D.C. chef wins big at James Beard Awards

D.C. chef Rob Rubba in a black t-shirt and blue apron sitting at a table with a glass .
Chef Rob Rubba. Photo: via Oyster Oyster

Oyster Oyster chef Rob Rubba took home a James Beard Award Monday night in a competitive national category: Outstanding Chef.

Why it matters: "The Beards" are big-time — considered the Oscars for the American hospitality industry. And last year no D.C. finalist won.

Zoom in: Rubba, who brings a hyper-seasonal and sustainable approach to the fine dining world, has racked up accolades for his plant-centric Shaw tasting room, including Food & Wine’s Best New Chef and a new Michelin star.

  • The intimate space hones in on native, wild, and foraged ingredients — plus oysters (they’re good for the environment!) and natural/biodynamic wines.

What they're saying: Rubba thanked his wife, kids, and longtime business partner Max Kuller. "Your thoughtfulness is contagious," he said at the ceremony. And to the next generation, "I just hope every day I can give [them] everything I have so they can progress and succeed."

Backstory: Rubba’s win is doubly sweet as it’s the first for D.C. in four years, partly due to a two-year pandemic hiatus for the awards. Prior to that, D.C. chefs and restaurants enjoyed a win in at least one category every year between 2016 and 2019 — a period that corresponded with the city’s rising culinary reputation.

Zoom out: Rubba was among three finalists for D.C. The list also included Albi chef Michael Rafidi, a finalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. And Causa, a Peruvian tasting bar in Shaw, a finalist for Best New Restaurant.

Between the lines: Even making it off the long list of semifinalists is résumé-worthy.

Also in the news: The awards themselves.

What’s next for Rubba: His team is planning to reopen a version of their more casual Oyster Garage adjoining the Shaw tasting room.

See also: The 2023 RAMMY Awards on July 9, aka the Oscars for D.C.’s hospitality industry. Oyster Oyster is a nominee for Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year.

Find a full list here of James Beard Award winners.

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