Nearly 20 L.A. chefs and restaurants named semifinalists for 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards


In its first round of nods for 2023, the James Beard Foundation today announced the semifinalists for its annual restaurant and bar awards — including a number of Los Angeles-area names — recognizing chefs, bakers, restaurants and hospitality vets across the country.

While some of L.A.’s semifinalists are first-time contenders for the James Beard Foundation Awards, numerous 2023 names have previously appeared as semifinalists, some as many as eight times. Whether they progress to the nominees stage will be seen on March 29, and the winners, pulled from that list, will be announced at the annual awards ceremony on June 5 in Chicago.

As he was in 2022, Greg Dulan — of South L.A.’s Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Dulan’s on Crenshaw and Dulanville — is again a contender in the outstanding restaurateur category, while Niki Nakayama, of Palms kaiseki institution n/naka and new West Adams izakaya n/soto, is a semifinalist for outstanding chef for the eighth time.

Cassia, in Santa Monica, is a semifinalist in the category of outstanding restaurant (its executive chef, Bryant Ng, was a finalist in last year’s awards). Another familiar name is Margarita Manzke, co-owner of La Brea’s République and also a finalist in 2022: Practically a fixture in the pastry chef category, this marks the eighth year for Manzke as a semifinalist or finalist for pastry or baking. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s Friends & Family, with its focus on heritage grains, is a semifinalist in the new category of outstanding bakery.

In celebration of the country’s new restaurants and talents, Rashida Holmes of vibrant Caribbean pop-up Bridgetown Roti is under consideration for emerging chef, and both modern-Indian sports bar Pijja Palace, in Silver Lake, and innovative Korean American deli and restaurant Yangban Society, in the Arts District, could be nominees in the category of best new restaurant.

Multiple L.A.-area chefs are semifinalists for the statewide category of best chef, including Rocio Camacho of Bell Gardens’ Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen; Gilberto Cetina Jr. of South L.A.’s Holbox; Brandon Hayato Go of the Arts District’s Hayato, this year’s Los Angeles Times best restaurant; Andrew and Michelle Muñoz of Lincoln Heights’ Moo’s Craft Barbecue; Justin Pichetrungsi of Sherman Oaks’ Anajak Thai, The Times’ 2022 Restaurant of the Year; and Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong of Thaitown’s Jitlada. A number of chefs a brief drive from L.A. also made the semifinalists list for California’s best chef, in addition to many in the Bay Area: Michael Reed of Anaheim’s Poppy & Seed; Carlos Salgado of Costa Mesa’s Taco María; and Jonathan Bautista of San Diego’s Kingfisher, all to the south; with Daisy Ryan of Los Alamos’ Bell’s to the north.

Koreatown’s genre-bending Here’s Looking at You, which closed due to the pandemic but surprise-reopened in early 2022, is a semifinalist for hospitality, and in recognition of beverage programs, Echo Park izakaya and sake bar Ototo is a semifinalist for the category of wine and other beverages program. Santa Monica’s Ester’s Wine Shop & Bar could be a nominee for best bar.

The full list of the 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists can be found here.

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