Michigan chefs and restaurants went home without a single medal from this year’s James Beard Foundation ceremony. James Beard Awards are widely considered to be the most prestigious accolades in the American culinary world. This year, two finalists — Lisa Ludwinski of Sister Pie in Detroit and Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor — were repping the state.
Ludwinski was nominated in the category for Outstanding Baker, which ultimately went to Greg Wade at Publican Quality Bread in Chicago. Zingerman’s Roadhouse was up for an award in the Outstanding Service category, but Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado walked away with the medal.
The annual event hosted in Chicago attracted a huge crowd of hospitality world insiders. Chef Ashley Christensen from Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina, was named Outstanding Chef, while Zahav in Philadelphia took the top honor for Outstanding Restaurant. Frenchette in New York was named the Best New Restaurant and Kwame Onwuachi received the Rising Star Chef of the Year Award. Regionally, Chicago chefs and restaurants performed particularly well, netting four awards. Here’s a full list of the winners from the night.
Michigan has had a long dry spell in terms of James Beard Awards. Both finalists and medals have been elusive for chefs and restaurants in the state with the exception of Al Ameer’s 2016 America’s Classics award.
Nine chefs and restaurants, mainly from metro Detroit, were named semifinalists across five categories in February. They included Selden Standard pastry chef and Eater Young Gun Lena Sareini for Rising Star Chef of the Year and Marrow for Best New Restaurant. James Rigato (Mabel Gray), Norberto Garita (El Barzon), Anthony Lombardo (SheWolf), Genevieve Vang (Bangkok 96), and Kate Williams (Lady of the House) were also nominated in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category. For Ludwinski, it was her third year in a row being nominated in the baker category and first time making it to the short list.
With so much national interest in Michigan’s dining scene, it’s a disappointment to get shutout year after year — particularly in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category. (It might as well be called the Best Chef: Chicago category.) Still, there’s reason to keep the faith in the local dining industry’s chances of taking home a Beard.
In 2018, Zingerman’s Delicatessen broke a multi-year streak in which no Michigan chefs or restaurants were named finalists for an award. This year, the odds of winning doubled with two finalists nominations. In short: better luck in 2020.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.