Charleston chef becomes first West Virginian to take home a James Beard Award

Other notable winners include “Top Chef” alum Gregory Gourdet, Dakar NOLA's Serigne Mbaye and Albi's Michael Rafidi

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published June 12, 2024 12:20PM (EDT)

Chef cooking in commercial kitchen (Getty Images/Ryan McVay)
Chef cooking in commercial kitchen (Getty Images/Ryan McVay)

The annual James Beard Awards — hailed as the biggest night for all things food and drink — took place Monday at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. This year’s showcase celebrated culinary achievements spanning across cuisines and a myriad of acclaimed chefs, restaurateurs, bartenders and other industry professionals.

Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Nyesha Arrington, Richard Blais, Tim Flores and Genie Kwon presented the regional awards, which spotlighted chefs in different parts of the nation. Paul Smith, chef at 1010 Bridge in Charleston, West Virginia, and winner of Best Chef: Southeast, made history by becoming the first West Virginian to take home a James Beard Award. “Two words that have never been mentioned here before: West Virginia,” Smith said during his acceptance speech.

Lord Maynard Llera won the Best Chef: California award for his Los Angeles-based restaurant Kuya Lord, focused on Southern Tagalog Region cuisine. David Standridge won Best Chef: Northeast for his sustainable seafood spot The Shipwright's Daughter located in Mystic, Connecticut. Harley Peet secured the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award for Bas Rouge located in Easton, Maryland. And “Top Chef” alum Gregory Gourdet took home the Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific award for his Haitian-inspired culinary haven kaan, located in Portland, Oregon. “Access to food is a basic human right and should never be used as a tool of war against innocent people,” Gourdet said.

Additionally, Hajime Sato became the first sushi chef to win Best Chef: Great Lakes for his restaurant Sozai in Clawson, Michigan.  

The Best New Restaurant award went to Dakar NOLA of New Orleans, whose chef Serigne Mbaye tearfully praised his team while on stage. Mbaye was named “Chef of the Year” by Eater NOLA in 2021. In 2022 and 2023, he was nominated for a James Beard award.

The biggest award of the night — the Outstanding Chef award — was given to Michael Rafidi, chef of Washington D.C.’s Albi. Rafidi dedicated his award to “Palestine and to all the Palestinian people out there, whether it’s here or in Palestine or all over the world.”