Palestinian DC Chef and Senegalese Eatery in NOLA win James Beard Awards

 Palestinian DC Chef and Senegalese Eatery in NOLA win James Beard Awards

A sampling of East African cuisine is prepared at the Baobab Fare restaurant, Friday, May 24, 2024, in Detroit.
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USA

A Palestinian chef using ancient cooking techniques, a Senegalese restaurant in New Orleans and an upscale Thai restaurant in Oregon won the coveted James Beard Awards Monday in an awards ceremony that took place on the red carpet in Chicago.

More than 100 restaurants were finalists in 22 categories for the culinary world’s equivalent of the Oscars , with a wide diversity of cuisines and chef backgrounds, a recent development after turbulent years marred by a pandemic for the James Beard Foundation.

Just being a finalist can bring great recognition and boost business. Among the most anticipated categories are the awards recognizing the most outstanding restaurateurs, chefs and restaurants.

Restaurants apply for the awards. The judges, who remain mostly anonymous, taste the cuisine before voting. Nominees are evaluated for their cooking, as well as their code of ethics , particularly regarding how employees are treated. On Monday, winners announced at the Lyric Opera of Chicago received engraved medallions.

The Best New Restaurant award went to Dakar NOLA , a Senegalese restaurant in New Orleans . “I always knew that West Africa had something to say ,” said chef Serigne Mbaye. “That’s what kept me going.”

The James Beard Foundation has given out awards since 1991, except in 2020 and 2021, when the organization did away with them as the restaurant industry was reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation has also been criticized for its lack of racial diversity and for allegations regarding the behavior of some applicants. Foundation officials have promised to improve ethical standards and be more “representative of the sector .

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