ARIZONA NEWS

Rene Andrade of Bacanora in Phoenix wins Best Chef: Southwest at 2024 James Beard Awards

Jun 11, 2024, 4:15 AM | Updated: 6:47 am

Chef Rene Andrade attends the Players Tailgate by Bullseye Event Group on February 13, 2022 in Los ...

Chef Rene Andrade attends the Players Tailgate by Bullseye Event Group on February 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Bullseye Event Group)

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Bullseye Event Group)

PHOENIX — Chefs, bakers, restaurateurs and more were recognized Monday at the Lyric Opera of Chicago at the James Beard Awards, affectionately known as the “Food Oscars.” Rene Andrade of Bacanora in Phoenix won the award for Best Chef: Southwest.

“To be quick, a little kid from Sonora, Mexico had this dream of being just like Grandma. She’s the representation of magic to me,” Andrade said in his acceptance speech. “I seen her at a very young age just there cooking for everybody for a bunch of kids and a bunch of uncles and my mom and everybody. I remember just seeing her with a bunch of love and passion for it … and I got to understand the love and the magic you put through it, so I said I wanna be that.”

“I wanna be her,” Andrade repeated in Spanish. “Keep fighting for your culture, for everybody,” he continued in Spanish.

The Southwest region consists of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Oklahoma.

Restaurants apply for the prestigious James Beard Awards. Judges, who mostly remain anonymous, try the cuisine before voting. Nominees are reviewed for the food, as well as for a behavioral code of ethics, including how employees are treated.

Michael Rafidi, whose Washington, D.C., restaurant Albi was awarded a coveted Michelin Star in 2022, won outstanding chef among five finalists. Albi, which is Arabic for “my heart,” pays homage to Rafidi’s Palestinian roots by using Old World food preparation techniques. Everything is cooked over charcoal, including grape leaves stuffed with lamb and sfeeha, a meat pie.

The award for best new restaurant went to Dakar NOLA, a Senegalese restaurant in New Orleans.

Andrade was the only 2024 James Beard Awards winner from Arizona, but the Grand Canyon State was well represented with the following semifinalists:

Best chef: Southwest

  • Flavia Briones, Barista Del Barrio, Tucson
  • Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag, Glai Baan, Phoenix
  • Wendy Garcia, Tumerico, Tucson
  • Sam Greenhalgh, Forêt, Flagstaff
  • Claudio Urciuoli, Source, Gilbert

Best new restaurant

Ava Bakery, Phoenix

Emerging chef

Roberto Centeno, Espiritu, Mesa

Outstanding bar

Little Rituals, Phoenix

Outstanding hospitality

Andreoli Italian Grocer, Scottsdale

Outstanding pastry chef or baker

Crystal Kass, Valentine, Phoenix

Outstanding restaurateur

Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin, Cocina Chiwas and Tacos Chiwas, Tempe and Phoenix

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Rene Andrade of Bacanora in Phoenix wins Best Chef: Southwest at 2024 James Beard Awards