Meet All The SoCal Chefs Who Just Got Nominated For The Food World's Oscars

A general view of atmosphere at the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards Welcome Reception at Soho House Chicago on May 3, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Soho House Chicago).

The James Beard Awards are the Oscars of the food world — they're a big deal and they're usually myopic. Not Green Book winning Best Picture level of myopic, but not great, either.

Margarita Manzke (right) and her husband, chef Walter Manzke, attend the 8th Annual L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade on September 9, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for L.A. Love's Alex's Lemonade)

That's because the James Beard Foundation has a nearly three-decade history of focusing on Fancy Rich People Restaurants and doing it in a way that's painfully NY-centric.

In the last few years, the organization has been getting better at recognizing the value of women, people of color, restaurants in cities that aren't New York and "ethnic" restaurants. (Sidenote: Here at LAist, we HATE the term "ethnic restaurants" because A. all restaurants are ethnic and B. it's a POV that centers European cuisines.) Anyway.

This morning, the semi-finalists for the 2019 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards were announced.

It was great to see Genet Agonafer, the chef and founder of Meals By Genet, one of L.A.'s best Ethiopian restaurants, and Carlos Salgado of Taco María in Costa Mesa, recognized in the Best Chef category.

They were joined by a host of talented locals including Niki Nakayama of n/naka, Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market and Jessica Koslow of Sqirl.

Other notable noms: Bavel is contending for Best New Restaurant and Margarita Manzke is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef for her work at République. (Have they tried her incredible buko pie at Sari Sari Store???)

Below are the Southern California semi-finalists in each category (you can find a full list on the JBF website and read more about how the awards are judged). They'll be whittled down to a smaller group of finalists, which will be announced on Mar. 27. The James Beard Awards will be handed out on May 6 in Chicago.

Guacamole made with avocado, grapes, pistachio and flax seeds at Taco Maria, in Costa Mesa, (T.Tseng/Flickr Creative commons

Best New Restaurant
"A restaurant opened in 2018 that already demonstrates excellence in cuisine and hospitality, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come."

  • Bavel, Los Angeles
  • Majordomo, Los Angeles

Outstanding Baker
"A pastry chef or baker who demonstrates exceptional skill, integrity, and character in the preparation of desserts, pastries, or breads served in a retail bakery. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years."

  • no SoCal noms in this category
Jessica Koslow of L.A. restaurant Sqirl attends the Daring 25 on July 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

Outstanding Bar Program
"A restaurant or bar that demonstrates exceptional care and skill in the selection, preparation, and serving of cocktails, spirits, and/or beer."

  • Old Lightning, Marina Del Rey, CA

Outstanding Chef
"A chef who sets high culinary standards and who has served as a positive example for other food professionals. Must have been working as a chef for the past five years."

  • no SoCal noms in this category

Outstanding Pastry Chef
"A pastry chef or baker who demonstrates exceptional skill, integrity, and character in the preparation of desserts, pastries, or breads served in a restaurant. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years."

  • Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles

Outstanding Restaurant
"A restaurant that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, service, and operations. Must have been in business 10 or more consecutive years."

  • Park's BBQ, Los Angeles

Outstanding Restaurateur
"A restaurateur who demonstrates creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operations. Must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Must not have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years."

  • no SoCal noms in this category either

Outstanding Service
"A restaurant in operation for five or more years that demonstrates consistency and exceptional thoughtfulness in hospitality and service."

  • n/naka, Los Angeles
Chef Niki Nakayama, left, and assistant chef Carole Lida work on plating their kaiseki menu, the traditional Japanese culinary practice at Nakayama's n/naka restaurant on April 15, 2015. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Outstanding Wine Program
"A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in wine service through a carefully considered wine list and a well-informed approach to helping customers choose and drink wine."

  • Night + Market, Los Angeles

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer
"A beer, wine, or spirits producer who demonstrates consistency and exceptional skill in his or her craft."

  • no SoCal noms in this category either

Rising Star Chef of the Year
"A chef age 30 or younger who displays exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come."

  • Jonathan Yao, Kato, Los Angeles
Chef Kris Yenbamroong at the 34th Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen on June 18, 2016. (Photo by Nick Tininenko/Getty Images for Food & Wine)

Best Chefs
"Chefs who set high culinary standards and also demonstrate integrity and admirable leadership skills in their respective regions. A nominee may be from any kind of dining establishment but must have been working as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years spent in the region."

This category is divided into 10 regions: Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New York City, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast, Southwest and West. Los Angeles falls under West, which covers California, Nevada and Hawaii.

  • Genet Agonafer, Meals by Genet, Los Angeles
  • Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles
  • Jeremy Fox, Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, CA
  • Jessica Koslow, Sqirl, Los Angeles
  • Travis Lett, Gjelina, Venice, CA
  • Niki Nakayama, n/naka, Los Angeles
  • Carlos Salgado, Taco María, Costa Mesa, CA
  • Kris Yenbamroong, Night + Market, Los Angeles

Chef Joshua Skenes, of Saison in San Francisco, was also nominated for Best Chef, and he's planning to open an outpost of his sustainable seafood restaurant, Angler, in the Beverly Center this spring.