The James Beard Awards, named for the eccentric chef and Portland native who revolutionized the American dining scene in the 20th century, are the nation’s highest annual culinary honor. With such a talked-about and delicious food scene, it comes as no surprise that Portland chefs have racked up a few James Beard Awards over the years.
Here are some of the most notable chefs recently bestowed with the honor:
Best Chef: Northwest – 2011 and Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction – 2014
The Pok Pok chef won Best Chef: Northwest in 2011 (after being nominated in the same category in 2008, 2009 and 2010) and picked up a second Beard Award for a Saveur article in 2014. Try his signature Thai fish-sauce chicken wings at Pok Pok, Pok Pok Noi or Whiskey Soda Lounge on dining destination Southeast Division Street.
Best Chef: Northwest – 2013
The Best Chef: Northwest winner in 2013 gained recognition for his unique and adventurous take on French cuisine at the east side’s Le Pigeon (and its downtown sister restaurant, Little Bird). Additionally, Rucker won Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2011 and was nominated in both categories two other times. Cook yourself some James Beard Award-worthy food from his new cookbook, Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird, released in September 2013.
Best Chef: Northwest – 2014
Legendary chef and local celebrity Naomi Pomery won Best Chef: Northwest in 2014, after being nominated in the category in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Try her meaty prix-fixe meals at the acclaimed Beast, or enjoy cocktails and Burmese-inspired fare at her nearby bar Expatriate.
Best Chef: Northwest – 2002
This pioneer of whole-hog cooking and farm-to-table dining in Portland was one of the first Portland chefs to garner national attention when he won the Beard Award in 2002. Enjoy his still-stellar cooking at the eponymous Higgins Restaurant downtown.
Best Chef: Northwest – 2005
This beloved local chef, who was also nominated in 2003 and 2004, has three restaurants in Portland where he showcases his signature simple, elegant preparations of Pacific Northwest cuisine. The seminal Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar has been highly regarded by locals and critics since coming on the scene in 1994, and Paley opened Imperial and Portland Penny Diner inside downtown’s Hotel Lucia in 2012.
Baking & Dessert Cookbook – 2013
Rounding out Portland’s most-recognized chefs is pastry virtuoso Ken Forkish, who was an Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee in 2011 and 2013, and won in 2013 for his cookbook Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Get your fill of his baked goods at Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Northwest and Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Southeast, or at the Central Eastside’s Trifecta Tavern restaurant and bar.
Other notable nominees
Here are some more of Portland’s Beard Award-nominated chefs and where to eat their food: