2022 James Beard Award semi-finalists: Greg Dulan, Niki Nakayama

After suspending its prestigious restaurant awards in 2020 and 2021, the James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced its 2022 semifinalists with a long list that includes some notable contenders from LA.

The list comes after an internal review and reckoning of the James Beard Foundation’s practices, diversity and accessibility that have led to promises of systemic improvements.

Greg Dulan of the legendary Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, which operates three restaurants in South LA, is a semifinalist in the outstanding restaurateur category. Post & Beam, a South LA staple recipient of the Los Angeles Times Gold Award 2020, is in the running for restaurant awards. Niki Nakayama, of Palms’ acclaimed n/naka, is a semifinalist for Outstanding Chefs, her seventh time on this shortlist.

Two women in chef's clothes sit side by side at a table.

Chef Niki Nakayama (left) and sous chef Carole Iida-Nakayama from n/naka.

(Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

This year’s list of semi-finalists features a significantly wider range of styles, ethnicities, cuisines and price points, perhaps a nod to the results of the 2021 exam that led to the promise of greater equity in future awards and guidelines. Changes like replacing the Rising Star category with Emerging Chef and removing the age limit for the award are also reflected in this year’s list. (A comprehensive guide to the Foundation’s policy recommendations can be found here.)

Each year the James Beard Awards honor new restaurants and chefs, and in 2022 LA will be represented by Casey Felton of Hollywood’s Banh Oui in the emerging chef category. Guerrilla Tacos founder and Ka’teen chef Wes Avila’s Angry Egret Dinette in Chinatown is a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.

In baking, longtime nominee Margarita Manzke of Mid-City’s République is a semifinalist in the pastry chef category, while Joseph, Archalous and Caroline Geragosian of Pasadena’s Old Sasoon Bakery are semifinalists for outstanding bakers.

Historic Filipinotown bar Genever is a semi-finalist in the Bar Program category; Owners Roselma Samala, Patricia Perez, and Christine Sumiller’s cocktail lounge focuses on gin and homemade syrups and tinctures.

While LA-area chefs and restaurants sparsely filled the categories in this year’s preliminary list, they made up nearly half of the Best Chef: California contenders.

Semi-finalists on this list are Alta Adams’ Keith Corbin in West Adams; Tony Ho of Sea Harbor Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead; Judept Irra from Bell Gardens’ Tamales Elena y Antojitos; Bryant Ng from Santa Monica’s Cassia; Natalia Pereira of Woodspoon downtown; Minh Phan from Hollywood’s Phenakite; Justin Pichetrungsi of Anajak Thai Cuisine at Sherman Oaks; and Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong from the Jitlada institution in Thaitown. Further south, Costa Mesa’s Taco María’s Carlos Salgado received a semifinal nomination, as did San Diego’s Juniper and Ivy’s Anthony Wells.

Finalists will be named March 16 and winners will be announced June 13 at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Last week was Sherman Oaks’ Casa Vega named as one of six recipients of the James Beard Foundation’s annual America’s Classics Awards. The full list of 2022 semi-finalists can be found here here. 2022 James Beard Award semi-finalists: Greg Dulan, Niki Nakayama

Russell Falcon

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