The Best Chefs & Restaurants in the USA: 2017 James Beard Award Winners

May 2, 2017

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Last night the winners of the James Beard Awards — the Oscars of fine dining — were announced at the Lyric Opera of Chicago building before a crowd of nearly 2,000 gourmands and industry insiders. And like every year (the awards began in 1990), there were big winners and losers, tremendous surprises and a whole lot of heartfelt, this-medal-really-belongs-to-someone-else, thank-you speeches.

If you want to know where to eat across the USA, the Beard winners list would be a fine place to start, and possibly more reliable than the Michelin guide (full disclosure: I used to be on the James Beard Restaurant & Chef committee). Some highlights below:

Stephen Starr, who runs more than 30 eateries in five states, not only won “best restaurateur” (after years of being on the ballot and losing), but his new eatery, Le Coucou in New York, also won best new restaurant, which basically guarantees that reservations will be impossible to score for another year or so.

New Orleans finally got some of the love it has long deserved. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar won “Outstanding Bar Program” and Zachary Engel won “Rising Star Chef of the Year” for his work at Shaya.

Some well-known restaurants — many that seem like they must have already won every honor possible — found new awards to win. At New York’s Daniel, Ghaya Oliveira took top “Top Pastry Chef” honors. Chicago’s Rick Bayless won “Outstanding Restaurant” for Topolobampo (hard to believe he didn’t win that one already), and Dan Barber got up on stage and made another smart speech after Blue Hill at Stone Barns (in Pocantico Hills, NY) won for “Outstanding Service.”

The complete list of winners is below and includes the “America’s Classic” winners — for restaurants with timeless appeal, beloved in their regions for quality food that reflects the character of its community (and are usually not too expensive). For a complete list of semifinalists — basically this year’s losers — announced back in February, visit the James Beard site.

The crowd got to feast once the final awards had been announced.

2017 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards Winners

Best New Restaurant: Le Coucou, NYC
Outstanding Baker: Mark Furstenberg, Bread Furst, Washington, D.C.
Outstanding Bar Program: Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans
Outstanding Chef: Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, NYC
Outstanding Restaurant: Topolobampo, Chicago
Outstanding Restaurateur: Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia (Le Coucou, Serpico, Upland, and others)
Outstanding Service: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Outstanding Wine Program: Canlis, Seattle
Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional: Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Zachary Engel, Shaya, New Orleans
Outstanding Restaurant Design, 75 Seats and Under: Avroko for Single Thread, Healdsburg, CA
Outstanding Restaurant Design, More Than 75 Seats: Meyer Davis for St. Cecilia, Atlanta
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH): Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde, Chicago
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA): Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI): Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
Best Chef: New York City: Marco Canora, Hearth
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY State, RI, VT): Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY): Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, Ox, Portland, OR
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, Puerto Rico): Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV): Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT): Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV): Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco

2017 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics
La Taqueria, San Francisco
Sahadi’s, Brooklyn
Schultz’s Crab House, Maryland
Gioia’s Deli, St. Louis
Bertha’s Kitchen, North Charleston

2017 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America
Suzanne Goin
Evan Kleiman
Roger Berkowitz
Michel Nischan
Rajat Parr

2017 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year
Denise Cerreta, One World Everybody Eats

2017 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award
Nora Pouillon, Restaurant Nora (Washington, DC)

Do you agree or disagree with the selection of any of the winners?

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