Planning A Foodie Vacation? Start With The 2024 James Beard Award Winners

Every year, many industries — mostly the fun ones —  have some sort of event to determine the best of the best. Only an elite few get to hoist a belt at WrestleMania, deliver a lengthy acceptance speech at the Oscars, or wear a blanket of roses at Churchill Downs (in this last case, it helps to be a horse). The same holds true for chefs who receive the James Beard Award. This award, unlike the Michelin star, is entirely home-grown. The U.S. Michelin Guide also seems to focus more on restaurants in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, while the James Beard Foundation travels all over the U.S. seeking out the best chefs in every area.

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The 2024 James Beard Awards were announced on June 10, just in time for any summer vacation travel plans you might be making. Whether you're able to tour the entire nation coast to coast or can just hit a single region or two, the following is a list of hot spots with chefs who won James Beard Awards this year. On a procedural note, the James Beard Foundation divides the U.S. into 12 regions for its best chef awards, with New York, California, and Texas each counting as their own. All prices and menu items listed here were accurate as of this article's publishing date but may change over time.

New York State: Charlie Mitchell, Clover Hill, Brooklyn, New York

The James Beard Award for the best chef in the state of New York, no surprise, goes to one based in New York City — Charlie Mitchell of Brooklyn's Clover Hill. The restaurant describes itself as offering "old and new school fine dining," and as the last two words indicate, the price is on the steep side but the food is fancy. 

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The menu changes with the seasons, with spring offerings including a $305 prix fixe menu featuring dry-aged heritage duck and a savory cannoli filled with white asparagus and potato.

Mid-Atlantic: Harley Peet, Bas Rouge, Easton, Maryland

Tiny (well, small-ish) Easton, Maryland, with a population less than 1% of that of Brooklyn is home to James Beard Award-winning Che, Harley Peet of Bas Rouge. 

The establishment describes itself as "contemporary European" but due to its location on Maryland's Eastern shore, it leans heavily into seafood with specialties including Chesapeake crab causa (a Peruvian dish made with layers of mashed potato) and seared sea scallops in coconut broth with cucumber salsa. You won't dine cheap, but the prix fixe meal will run a relatively reasonable $125 for three courses or $150 for four.

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South: Valerie Chang, Maty's, Miami

The James Beard foundation sees the Southern region as more than just the sweet tea belt. It encompasses Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico. This year's winner is Valerie Chang from Maty's, a Peruvian restaurant in Miami. Peru lies along the Pacific while Florida's coast borders the Atlantic, but Chang brokers this meeting of oceans with offerings such as clams with huacatay (aka black mint) and dorade (sea bream) in an ají amarillo beurre blanc. 

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Small plates start at $14 and table-sized shareables run up to $72, but for a more affordable experience, hit Maty's up at brunch. Here you can try eggs Benedict in ají amarillo hollandaise for $14 or ricotta toast with ají amarillo jam for $12.

Southeast: Paul Smith, 1010 Bridge, Charleston, West Virginia

The Southeast region, which consists of Georgia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia, has a surprise in store: 2024's award goes to Paul Smith of Charleston, West Virginia's 1010 Bridge, thus marking the very first win for a chef from the Mountain State. 

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At 1010 Bridge, the menu runs from hipster bar food like a $15 brisket burger with candied red onions and whipped boursin to more upscale fare such as steak with foie gras-shallot truffle butter and a side of lobster mac and cheese. This last item is, at $38, the most expensive thing on the menu — pricy for Charleston, perhaps, but barely enough to buy a glass of water in Brooklyn.

Midwest: Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai, Minneapolis

The James Beard Foundation defines the Midwest as Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Wyoming. The top Midwest chef, Christina Nguyen from Minneapolis' Hai Hai in Minneapolis, specializes in Southeast Asian street food ranging from Vietnamese sticky rice and sweet-savory crepes to Isan Thai-style chicken laab lettuce wraps to Indonesian-Malaysian beef rendang. 

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As befits street food (and the Midwest in general) Hai Hai's prices aren't too wild, with all entrees coming in under $25 and appetizers as low as $6.

Great Lakes: Hajime Sato, Sozai, Clawson, Michigan

In the Great Lakes region (Ilinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio), Hajime Sato of Clawson, Michigan's sushi restaurant Sozai gets the nod. As the menu emphatically points out, no California rolls or spicy mayo are on offer. Instead, you can order anything from small plates of hosomaki (single-filling mini rolls) starting at $6 all the way up to a $170 seven-course omakase (chef's choice) experience. 

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While you may need to take out a loan to finance the omakase, it's bound to be memorable since Sato is the first sushi chef to receive a James Beard award.

Northeast: David Standridge, The Shipwright's Daughter, Mystic, Connecticut

The best chef in the Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) is David Standridge of The Shipwright's Daughter in Mystic, Connecticut. Although Mystic is a pretty small town, with just under 4,500 residents, it's a pretty wealthy one with the median income topping the six-figure mark and home prices closing in on the half-million dollar mark. As such, it can support some pretty upscale eateries like The Shipwright's Daughter

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While the restaurant prides itself on changing its menu daily, a sampling of its New American fare includes such items as rhubarb gazpacho with basil oil ($12), squid ink spaghetti with mussels, harissa, and sugar kelp gremolata ($15 for a small plate, $30 for a large) and a roast melange of mushrooms with black pepper mole and salsa verde ($31). If you really want to see what Standridge can do, you can always shell out $100 for a five-course chef's tasting menu. For $50 more, you'll get to sample his chosen wine pairings, too.

Southwest: Rene Andrade, Bacanora, Phoenix

The Southwestern states are few in number but large in size, consisting (as per James Beard Foundation standards) of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oklahoma. The Foundation has named Rene Andrade of Phoenix, Arizona's Bacanora as this year's regional winner. 

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Bacanora's menu consists of Sonoran specialties cooked over a wood-fired grill. At present, there are only three entrees offered: a $14 tostada and $15 burrito, both with carne asada, and a $40 dish of pollo asada served with beans, tortillas, and roasted potatoes. The restaurant also features daily specials, but the online menu gives no clue as to what these might be nor how much they'll cost.

Texas: Ana Liz Pulido, Ana Liz Taqueria, Mission, Texas

The top Texas chef, Ana Liz Pulido of Mission's Ana Liz Taqueria, is so proud of her Mexican heritage that she accepted her James Beard Award with a speech in Spanish, concluding it with "Viva Mexico!" Pulido's eatery doesn't have its own website, but it does post a menu on Instagram. Shockingly enough, for a restaurant with an award-winning chef, the prices are quite affordable. 

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Tacos run from $2.25 to $3.50, while the most expensive thing is papa asada con carne (grilled potato with carne asada) for $10. It's hard to believe you can dine on James Beard Award-worthy cuisine for about what you'd pay at Taco Bell, but if you're in Mission, Texas (or willing to travel), now's your chance to do just that.

Northwest and Pacific: Gregory Gourdet, Kann, Portland, Oregon

The winner in the Northwest and Pacific (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington), Gregory Gourdet of Portland, Oregon's Kann, comes from Haiti, and his cuisine can be described as Caribbean as interpreted through a Pacific Northwest lens. 

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The menu includes items such as coconut pineapple-sauced Alaskan halibut, jerk cauliflower with coconut cream, and scallops in pepper-plantain cream. There are no prices on the online menu, so bring a high-limit credit card.

Mountain: Matt Vawter, Rootstalk, Breckenridge, Colorado

The best chef in the Rocky Mountain West this year (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming), as per the James Beard Foundation, is Matt Vawter of Breckenridge, Colorado's Rootstalk

The restaurant offers what it calls "elevated everyday dining," which seems to mean small plates such as heirloom beets with preserved plum miso ($19), large ones like locally-raised strip steak with green garlic soubise ($55), and a seven-course tasting menu for $139.

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California: Lord Maynard Llera, Kuya Lord, Los Angeles

The Golden State's award-winning chef is Lord Maynard Llera of Los Angeles' Kuya Lord. The restaurant is Filipino — Southern Tagalog, to be specific — and the menu offers rice bowls, noodle bowls, and kuya trays with proteins including prawns, pork belly, and tofu. 

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Again, there are no prices on the menu, but Postmates shows most bowls priced in the $18 to $25 range while family-sized trays cost $48.

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