Georgia has hits and misses at 2022 James Beard Awards

Busy Bee, Mashama Bailey recognized
The James Beard Awards have been postponed until later this summer. COURTESY OF THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION

The James Beard Awards have been postponed until later this summer. COURTESY OF THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION

Georgia was recognized in several ways at the 2022 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards, held June 13 in Chicago.

Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah won in the national Outstanding Chef category, three years after winning an award in the Best Chef: Southeast category.

“Black and brown folks, immigrants, mom-and-pop shops have been bubbling underneath the surface of this industry, working hard for a long time establishing our place in American food,” Bailey said in her acceptance speech. “I stand on the backs of many of them, and today, a little Black girl or a little Black boy can see themselves as a future outstanding chef.”

Iconic Atlanta restaurant Busy Bee Cafe was recognized at the ceremony as one of six 2022 America’s Classics Award winners. The recipients, who were announced earlier in the year, all have “that timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community,” according to the James Beard Foundation. To be eligible, establishments must have been in existence for at least 10 years.

Chai Pani Asheville, the sister restaurant of Chai Pani Decatur, won in the Best Restaurant category. Chef Meherwan Irani also owns Ponce City Market restaurants Botiwalla and Nani’s Piri Piri Chicken and the forthcoming spice shop Spicewalla.

In addition, Adam Evans, who worked for years in the kitchens of several Atlanta restaurants including The Optimist and the now-shuttered Craft Atlanta before opening Automatic Seafood and Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama, won Best Chef: Southeast.

Over the weekend, Atlanta-based publication Bitter Southerner won a James Beard Media Award in the category of Food Coverage in a General Interest Publication.

Other Atlanta finalists did not fare as well at the awards: Ticonderoga Club in Krog Street Market was a finalist in the Outstanding Hospitality category, Claudia Martinez of Miller Union was a finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, and Kevin Gillespie, whose Red Beard Restaurants group includes Gunshow, Ole Reliable, and Revival, was a finalist for the Best Restaurateur honor.

It was the second nomination for both Ticonderoga Club and Martinez. Ticonderoga Club was a finalist in 2019 in the Outstanding Bar Program category, while Martinez received her first Beard nomination while working for Tiny Lou’s.

Gillespie has been a finalist or semifinalist eight times in the Best Chef: Southeast, Rising Star Chef of the Year and American Cooking Cookbook categories.

Hosted by chef and cookbook author Kwame Onwuachi, the 2022 James Beard Awards were the first in two years, after a hiatus due to the coronavirus and an audit of the awards’ policies and procedures.

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