Taste of the Philippines: Recognizing Filipino talent at the 2024 James Beard Awards

AS the highly anticipated James Beard Awards draw near, Filipino talent emerges at the forefront, poised to seize the spotlight. Chefs and creators from the community have garnered nominations and acclaim, boldly waving the flag and propelling Filipino cuisine into the culinary mainstream. 

Four Fil-Am chefs were named finalists for the Restaurant and Chef Awards where winners will be announced on June 10 during a ceremony at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

Lord Maynard Llera of Kuya Lord in Los Angeles

Nikko Cagalanan of Kultura in Charleston is up for the Emerging Chef Award. Lord Maynard Llera of Kuya Lord in Los Angeles and Tara Monsod of Animae in San Diego are finalists for Best Chef: California while Chris Mauricio of Harana Market in Accord is up for Best Chef: New York State. Kaya in Orlando is up for the Best New Restaurant award.

Tara Monsod of Animae in San Diego

For the Media Awards, which cover outstanding achievements in book, broadcast media, and journalism, there are three Filipino names to watch out for – Erwan Heusaff and his team at FEATR who nabbed three nominations, and two women named Abi – Abi Balingit, nominated for Best Cookbook and Abi Marquez, nominated for Social Media Account. The winners will be announced on June 8 during a ceremony at the Columbia College, also in Chicago.

Erwin Heussaff won a James Beard Media Award last year for his Instagram account, which highlights Filipino culture and food. His company, FEATR, is nominated for three media awards this year. Photo from Instagram/@erwan

The James Beard Awards, considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognize exceptional and talented leaders in the culinary and food media industries, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive. The awards celebrate excellence across a range of experiences, from fine-dining establishments to casual gems, and emerging talents to established luminaries.

Media Awards

“The James Beard Media Awards shine a light on the exceptional storytellers whose work has the transformative potential to educate, inspire, and foster connection through a shared love of food,” said Clare Reichenbach, James Beard Foundation’s CEO.

Returning champion Erwan Heussaff, a Filipino-French chef, restaurateur, and content creator, is back after last year’s triumph in the Social Media Account category. This time, his team at FEATR has secured three nominations, spotlighting their impactful docuseries episodes delving into Philippine culinary heritage.

One of FEATR’s stories about calamansi is nominated for a James Beard Media AwardPhoto from Instagram/@featrmedia

Their ‘Philippine Salt Series’ episode is a finalist in the Docuseries Visual Media category while ‘Most Expensive Chocolate in the World (Heirloom Ingredients of Negros Occidental Philippines)’ and ‘Why Is the Filipino Calamansi Being Left Behind?’ are two of three finalists under the Visual Media-Long Form category.

In an Instagram post, FEATR expressed gratitude for the collaborative effort behind their success, acknowledging the contributions of artisans and diligent Filipinos worldwide who contribute to the elevation of Pinoy food and heritage.

“Thanks to everyone who worked with us on these stories—the people who shared their knowledge with us and the great storytellers who made these documentaries come to life,” FEATR posted. “It’s been truly a humbling experience to collaborate with the country’s best artisans and the hardworking Filipinos around the globe who continue to push the boundaries of Pinoy food and heritage.”

Abi Balingit, author of Mayumu
Photo from Instagram/@theduskykitchen

Filipino-American author and baker Abi Balingit is a finalist in the Baking and Desserts category for her innovative cookbook, “Mayumu: Filipino-American Desserts Remixed.” Overwhelmed with emotion, Balingit took to social media to share her disbelief and gratitude for the recognition. “LITERALLY CRYING thank you so much @beardfoundation for the Baking and Desserts cookbook nomination for #MAYUMU!!! Never in a million years would I have thought this would happen for me,” she posted.

Abi Marquez recently won a Webby Award in New York
Photo from Instagram/@abigailfmarquez

Content creator Abi Marquez is up for the Social Media Account category, which recognizes excellence in a food-related social media account or platform.

Known as the “Lumpia Queen”, Marquez won the 2024 People’s Voice Award for Food and Drink in Social at the 28th Annual Webby Awards held earlier this week. Marquez was recognized for her popular online presence showcasing and celebrating Filipino cuisine, particularly the beloved lumpia dish, through her social media content, particularly on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Restaurant and Chef Awards

Nikko Cagalanan of Kultura in Charleston is one of the five finalists in the running for the Emerging Chef Award, given to “a chef who displays exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come while contributing positively to their broader community.”

Nikko Cagalanan of Kultura in CharlestonFile photos

Chef Nikko hails from the Philippines and later moved to the United States in 2011, initially working as a nurse. Driven by his passion for Filipino cuisine, he decided to transition to a career in cooking. In 2018, Chef Nikko made the move to Charleston, taking significant steps in his culinary path. In early 2019, he founded Mansueta’s Filipino Food to share his love for Filipino cuisine with the community.

Cagalanan achieved recognition as the Best Filipino Restaurant in South Carolina by Food & Wine magazine, coupled with the prestigious title of Chopped Champion in November. Last year, he opened Kultura, a personal space where he can welcome guests and collaborate with chefs from diverse backgrounds, allowing them to showcase their own cultures through the art of food.

Kaya, a contemporary Filipino restaurant situated in Orlando, is up for the Best New Restaurant Award. This accolade is dedicated to recognizing recently opened restaurants that showcase outstanding excellence in cuisine and hold the promise of making a significant impact in the years to come.

Lordfer Lalicon and Jamilyn Bailey of Kaya in Orlando File photo

Kaya is run by Chef Lordfer Lalicon and Jamilyn Bailey, who expressed their profound gratitude for the nod on their Instagram account, stating, “What an incredible honor and testament to the hard work and love of the village that lifts us. We are humbled to represent our culture and our city in this special way.”

“I am floored and humbled to be a semifinalist. I’m proud of the work my team has done and grateful for the support from the community. To be able to create the food I want and push the culture forward means the world to me,” Monsod said about the honor. “The San Diego food scene deserves to be recognized and I’m proud to represent.”

Chris Mauricio of Harana Market in Accord

In New York, Harana Market, formerly of Woodstock recently moved to its bigger location in Accord. Their lease in Woodstock ended and since they have been growing since they opened, the owners Chris and Eva decided to expand. They have since become the go-to Filipino spot in the Hudson Valley area.

Founded more than 30 years ago, the James Beard Foundation “celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture, while pushing for new standards in the restaurant industry to create a future where all have the opportunity to thrive,” according to its announcement. n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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