A panel of chefs, restaurateurs, and food journalists have selected Le Coucou as the best new restaurant in America, while Michael Solomonov won for outstanding chef and Chicago’s Topolobampo was named the best restaurant that has been open for 10 years or longer.
Upon hearing the announcement, the Le Coucou team were “happily in shock,” even as the crowd could tell it was coming; since opening in 2016 the high-concept French restaurant has garnered waves of buzz for its reinvigoration of the big room, celeb-packed, event dining. Philadelphia-based Stephen Starr, who also won for Outstanding Restauranteur, said he’s been waiting seven years for this.
The win by Solomonov, who just opened another restaurant that gives all its profits away, was the big surprise of the night.
The James Beard Foundation Awards, which were given in Chicago on Monday evening, recognize chefs, restaurateurs, wine programs, and restaurants across the U.S. Established in 1990, the prizes have crowned such culinary heroes as Danny Meyer, Mario Batali, and Thomas Keller. Eleven Madison Park, which was just given the title of World’s Best Restaurant by a unrelated global panel, has collected seven James Beard awards.
Like the Oscars, to which they have been compared, the Beard Awards are not free of scandal. In 2004, then James Beard Foundation President Leonard Pickell Jr. was convicted of stealing more than $1 million from the foundation following an investigation by the New York State attorney general’s office.
Currently, more than 600 culinary professionals vote on the winners across 23 food and beverage categories. (Bloomberg’s food editor, Kate Krader, is on the James Beard Restaurant Committee panel.)
See the list of restaurant winners below.
Best New Restaurant
A restaurant (opened in the calendar year before the award will be given) that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
Le Coucou, New York
A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries, or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.
Mark Furstenberg, Bread Furst, Washington, D.C.
Outstanding Bar Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits, and/or beer service.
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans
A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Eligible candidates must have been working as a chef for the past five years.
Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia
Outstanding Pastry Chef
A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads in a restaurant, and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence. Must have been a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.
Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, NYC
A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere, and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.
A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Candidates must not have won a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.
Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia (Le Coucou, Serpico, Upland, and others)
A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Outstanding Wine Program
A restaurant in operation five or more years that serves as a standard bearer for excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine.
Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional
A beer, wine, or spirits professional who has made a significant national impact on the restaurant industry.
Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE Del.
Rising Star Chef of the Year
A chef aged 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.
Zachary Engel, Shaya, New Orleans
Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Eligible candidates may be from any kind of dining establishment and must have been working as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years spent in the region.
Best Chef: Great Lakes Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde, Chicago
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
Best Chef: Midwest Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
Best Chef: New York CityMarco Canora, Hearth
Best Chef: Northeast Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
Best Chef: Northwest Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, Ox, Portland, OR Ore.
Best Chef: South Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta
Best Chef: SouthwestHugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
Best Chef: West Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco