NORTH CAROLINA: Chai Pani, which serves affordable Indian street food in North Carolina, is the best restaurant in America.
The Asheville eatery was named America’s most Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago on Monday, topping nominees such as Brennan’s in New Orleans.
It was the first time the honors were awarded in two years, after being canceled in 2020 and 2021 so the foundation could remove systemic bias and as lockdowns to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus forced the temporary closure of many US restaurants.
The awards also come as Americans are paying the highest prices for food in four decades amid surging inflation that is threatening the broader economy.
This year’s award recipients and the nominee slate were more diverse to better reflect the makeup of the US. There was also more geographic variety, rather than years past when many winners came out of New York or Chicago.
The menu at Chai Pani, whose name literally translates to tea and water, features Indian snacks called “chaat” that are known for a mix of spicy, sweet and tangy flavors. Other winners included the Native American restaurant Owamni in Minneapolis, where the staff is 75% indigenous, as Best New Restaurant.
Outstanding Baker was Don Guerra at Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona, where he uses ancient grains that have seeds adapted to grow in the desert. Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, was named Outstanding Chef.
Dawn Padmore, vice president of awards, said the foundation did a “deep dive” on itself during its hiatus.
“Looking at the audience and seeing so many different people, it feels different,” she said. “It’s about reflecting the true diversity of the industry.”
See the full list of winners below.
Outstanding Restaurant: Chai Pani, Asheville, North Carolina
Outstanding Chef: Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, Georgia
Best New Restaurant: Owamni, Minneapolis
Outstanding Restaurateur: Chris Bianco, Tratto, Pane Bianco and Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Emerging Chef: Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria, Austin, Texas
Outstanding Baker: Don Guerra, Barrio Bread, Tucson, Arizona
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Warda Bouguettaya, Warda Pâtisserie in Detroit
Outstanding Wine Program: The Four Horsemen, New York
Outstanding Bar Program: Julep, Houston
Outstanding Hospitality: Cúrate, Asheville, North Carolina
Best Chef: California
Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
Best Chef: Southwest
Fernando Olea, Sazón, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Best Chef: Midwest
Dave Baldwin, The Diplomat, Milwaukee
Best Chef: Mountain
Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, Colorado
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific
Robynne Maii, Fête, Honolulu
Best Chef: Texas
Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo, Austin, Texas
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia
Best Chef: New York State
Chintan Pandya, Dhamaka, New York
Best Chef: South
Adam Evans, Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, Alabama
Best Chef: Southeast
Ricky Moore, SALTBOX Seafood Joint, Durham, North Carolina
Best Chef: Northeast
Nisachon Morgan, Saap, Randolph, Vermont
Best Chef: Great Lakes
Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant & Bar, Chicago