James Beard Foundation acknowledges Spokane boss Tony Brown and Pullman’s The Black Cypress | Food News | Spokane | The Pacific Northwest Inlander

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Spokane chef Tony Brown is a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist in the Best Chef (Northwest) category.

That puts Brown in excellent company locally and nationally. Previous local nominees include Chad White (Zona Blanca) in 2020 and 2022; Anna Vogel (Italia Trattoria) in 2018; Laurent Zirotti (Fleur de Sel) in 2017; Adam Hegsted (Wandering Table) in 2016; and Jeremy Hansen (Sante) in 2015.

Nationally, the 36-year-old New York-based foundation has recognized more than 8,500 restaurants and chefs across the United States, including such culinary industry luminaries as Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, and Wolfgang Puck.

Brown isn’t sure who nominated him, but recalled that in prior years the foundation looked at “not just culinary prowess, but also community involvement and staff mentorship,” he says. “I think a lot of folks are good at cooking, but the award seems to be geared toward the full package as a ‘chef.’”

Over the past 20 years, Brown has proved himself a culinary industry innovator.

He opened his first place, the former Stella’s Café, in 2012, followed two years later by Ruins, with its constantly changing menu format that blew people away, and which was also featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives television show. In 2020, Brown partnered with Jed Conklin to create Hunt in the basement of a historic downtown building, and Eyvind on the ground floor, which Brown has since replaced with Ruins.

Brown is realistic about the challenges of the industry and his role in it.

“Hospitality can be a pretty thankless profession sometimes with your performance being criticized on a daily basis or even hourly,” Brown says. “It’s high stress and everyone has a different idea of ​​what a restaurant experience should be. I try not to look at other restaurants and what they’re doing because I think it clouds my own personal vision — ‘comparison is the thief of joy,’ right?”

But even though awards are not his focus, he says it’s still great to be nominated. “I’ve never really pointed my sights toward accolades, but it does help boost my confidence that I’m doing something right,” he says.

ACcolades were also forthcoming for another Northwest chef, Nick Pitsilionis, whose Pullman restaurant The Black Cypress is one of 20 restaurants across the country being recognized in the outstanding hospitality category.

Although much has been written about the foundation’s recognition of chefs, the awards are only one of the many endeavors of the foundation named for the late James Beard, whose illustrious career included writing numerous influential cookbooks and food articles, appearing on the earliest televised cooking shows , and establishing a cooking school that would go on to shape the future of the industry.

Since its establishment in 1991, the foundation’s awards program has recognized excellence in the categories of media, such as cookbooks, as well as leadership, lifetime achievement and humanitarianism.

The restaurant and chef program is further broken down into outstanding restaurateur, restaurant, emerging chef, new restaurant, bakery, pastry chef/baker, wine and other beverages, bar, and both overall chef and best chef by geographic region, as well as the category of hospitality.

The next important date in the process is March 29, when the list of restaurant and chef award finalists are announced, followed by June 5, when winners are finalized.

Visit jamesbeard.org to learn more and see the complete semifinalist list.