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The 2023 James Beard awards: Bay Area nominees lose to Los Angeles chefs

Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana Restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., displays her James Beard medal in 2005. | Patrick Whittemore/Getty

No Bay Area chefs took home medallions from the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards this year. Known as the Oscars of the food world, the esteemed culinary foundation bestowed the 2023 awards in a live ceremony at the Lyric Opera in Chicago on Monday.

Two San Francisco restaurants and one Sonoma County restaurant were nominated for awards but did not ultimately win. High school sweethearts and chef-farmers Kyle and Katina Connaughton were nominated for the coveted Best Chef: California award for their Japanese-influenced, three-Michelin-starred phenom SingleThread in Healdsburg. 

The winner in that category was Justin Pichetrungsi of Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks, part of LA's San Fernando Valley.

Chef Vince Bugtong of Filipino-Californian kitchen Abacá near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco was a nominee in the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker category. Previously of Oakland craft cocktail lounge Viridian, Bugtong was one of three Filipino American chefs to be represented at the James Beard Awards this year.

San Francisco’s Michelin-starred modern American restaurant Lazy Bear was nominated for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program. Notably, the 9-year-old Mission District dining room—a brick-and-mortar homage to the American dinner party—made headlines in spring 2020 when it became a makeshift Covid commissary, selling rare wines from its cellar.

Ototo, in Los Angeles, took home the medal in that category.

When the Foundation announced the 2023 finalists in March, many bemoaned the lack of Bay Area representation. With so many restaurants closing in San Francisco and beyond, the 2023 awards also arrive at a moment when restaurateurs are increasingly calling the longevity of fine dining into question.

Named for a pioneering chef and author known for hosting the first cooking show on network television, the James Beard Foundation began awarding chefs, restaurants, authors and activists in 1991.