The James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday awarded a North Carolina-based Indian eatery named Chai Pani America’s Most Outstanding Restaurant after being voted the best restaurant in the US.
The best restaurant in America is Chai Pani, which serves cheap Indian street food in North Carolina.
At the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago on Monday, the Asheville diner was awarded America’s Most Outstanding Restaurant, beating out competitors including Brennan’s in New Orleans.
After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 so the foundation could address systematic bias and as lockdowns to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus prompted the temporary closure of numerous US restaurants, the honors were given for the first time in two years.
The awards also come at a time when Americans are paying the highest food costs in four decades, owing to rising inflation that is hurting the economy as a whole.
This year’s award recipients and nominees were more diversified in order to better reflect the demographics of the United States. There was also more geographic diversity this year, as opposed to previous years, when many winners came from New York or Chicago.
Chai Pani, whose name literally translates to “tea and water,” serves Indian snacks known as “chaat,” which are recognized for their spicy, sweet, and tangy flavors. Best New Restaurant went to Owamni, a Native American restaurant in Minneapolis with a staff that is 75 percent indigenous.
Don Guerra of Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona, was named Outstanding Baker for his use of ancient grains with seeds designed to grow in the desert.
Mashama Bailey of Savannah, Georgia’s The Grey was selected Outstanding Chef. Outstanding Restaurateur went to Chris Bianco of Tratto, Pane Bianco, and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.
During its absence, the foundation did a “deep dive,” according to Dawn Padmore, vice president of awards.
“Looking at the audience and seeing so many different people, it feels different,” she added. “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