New Orleans shut out of James Beard restaurant, chef awards, first time in decade | Where NOLA Eats

Five New Orleans restaurants and chefs were up for James Beard Foundation awards this year, with three represented in one category alone. None came away with any of the coveted restaurant awards, the first shutout for such honors in a decade, though one took home a media award for a cookbook.

The James Beard Foundation presented its annual culinary awards Monday night (June 13), at a gala event in Chicago.

Sometimes compared to the Academy Awards of the film business, these awards are closely watched within the hospitality industry and by restaurant aficionados. The last time no New Orleans name came away with a restaurant or chef award was 2012.

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER — Crepes Fitzgerald, a classic dish from Brennan’s, is still prepared tableside at the landmark restaurant.

The historic Brennan’s Restaurant was a finalist for the national Outstanding Restaurant award, which went to Chai Pani in Asheville, North Carolina.


Chef Serigne Mbaye prepares a dish at his pop-up Dakar NOLA, which showcases the flavors of Senegal.

Another New Orleans contender for a national award was chef Serigne Mbaye, of the pop-up and communal dining series Dakar NOLA, a finalist for the Emerging Chef award. That award went to Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria in Austin, Texas.

Saint Germain

Chefs Blake Aguillard (left) and Trey Smith at Saint-Germain, a French wine bar and a tasting menu bistro in the Bywater.

In the regional category for Best Chef: South, New Orleans sent three finalists: Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith, of Saint-Germain, the tasting menu bistro fused to an anytime wine bar in Bywater; Melissa Martin, of Mosquito Supper Club, serving a taste of bayou country home cooking in an Uptown cottage; and Isaac Toups, of Toups’ Meatery, a perennial contender for this award for his robust take on Cajun roots cooking.

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At Toups South, Cajun leader Isaac Toups tackles entire region

Chef Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery, the modern Cajun restaurant in Mid-City.

That regional award went to Adam Evans of Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, Alabama.

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Melissa Martin at Mosquito Supper Club, where meals are based on the home cooking for her bayou country roots.

Martin had already picked up an award by the time the gala began. The James Beard Foundation announced winners of its media awards Saturday, and Melissa Martin, chef/owner of the Uptown restaurant Mosquito Supper Club, won the award in the category “US Foodways” for her cookbook “Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou.”

New Orleans is normally well represented at the James Beard awards. This year, the city had a dozen nominees in the running, and half that number made it to the finalist round.

This was the first time since 2019 that the James Beard Foundation has hosted its awards, after calling them off deep into the awards process in 2020 and then forgoing them altogether in 2021 amid hospitality industry turmoil.

The foundation conducted an audit of its award program, focusing on diversity, equity and accessibility. The nominees announced this year showed a broader range of restaurant styles, price ranges and cuisines.

The foundation required award entries this year to include “alignment statements” explaining how their work aligns with the awards mission and foundation values, which includes “demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”

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