San Francisco isn't so well represented on this year's James Beard Award roster of finalists, but a couple of local stars have gotten nods, including Healdsburg's Michelin three-starred SingleThread.
To be fair, the Bay Area still feels like it's in recovery mode from the pandemic, and with the ongoing inflation pressure and hiring challenges in the industry, the usual parade of new restaurant openings that we became accustomed to in the last decade has notably slowed.
Also, the James Beard Foundation took some time during the pandemic to rethink its nomination process, trying to get more diverse and spread the love a little further afield than the usual culinary hotspots of New York, Chicago, SF, LA, Portland, and Seattle. And we saw that with the 2022 nominee list, which featured far more women and people of color than in previous years, and more nominees in the big categories in places like Atlanta, Nashville, Asheville, Tucson, and Detroit.
There's some similar geographic diversity on this year's list of finalists, and San Francisco is barely on there this time around. Also, the awards' habit of re-nominating people and restaurants over and over in a category until they win seems to have fallen to the wayside as well.
There's a nomination this year for Vince Bugtong, the pastry chef at the still newish neo-Filipino spot Abacá. Lazy Bear in the Mission got a nod in the Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program category. And SingleThread scored a nomination in the Best Chef: California category for chef-owners Kyle and Katina Connaughton.
They are, actually, the only Bay Area restaurant to get a nod in that category, which has typically been dominated by the Bay Area in the past. All four other nominees are from the Los Angeles area. The winner in that category last year was Mister Jiu's Brandon Jew, so it seems likely that a SoCal winner will take it this time, but we'll see.
Sadly, while SF's Trick Dog was becoming the "Susan Lucci" of the Outstanding Bar category, they did not make it to the finalist list this year.
In the Best New Restaurant category this year, there is but one single West Coast nominee, Kann in Portland, out of a list of ten. And the Bay Area was similarly shut out of the Hospitality, Outstanding Chef, and Outstanding Restaurant categories.
The James Beard Foundation Chef & Restaurant Awards will be presented at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on June 5, and will be live-streamed on Eater.