For the third year in a row, Philly hot spot Zahav won big at the James Beard Awards, the annual honors given out to chefs, restaurants, and restaurateurs. The 11-year-old Israeli eatery in Society Hill, from star chef Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook, was named outstanding restaurant at the 2019 James Beard Awards ceremony on Monday night in Chicago. It was the only winner from Philadelphia, and the first time Philly received the outstanding restaurant award.
In his acceptance speech, Cook called the award incredibly humbling and thanked the city of Philadelphia for being so supportive, jokingly adding “but not too supportive, because that’s not Philly.”
Zahav’s general manager Okan Yazici, who started out at the restaurant as a buser 10 years ago, referred to the Zahav crew as a family.
When it was his turn to speak, Solomonov gestured toward his team next to him on the stage: “When you’re surrounded by these people, life is good.”
Solomonov and Cook are both previous James Beard Award winners for their first cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. In 2017, Solomonov came home with the outstanding chef award. Last year, Zahav’s pastry chef Camille Cogswell was named the rising star chef of the year.
This latest win comes hot on the heels of the news that the team has three new restaurants in the works, including K’Far in Rittenhouse, which will be led by Cogswell. Solomonov and Cook are also behind Goldie, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, The Rooster, and local chain Federal Donuts.
The Philly finalists nominated this year included Marc Vetri of Vetri Cucina for outstanding chef; Ellen Yin of Fork, High Street on Market, and a.kitchen for outstanding restaurateur; Rich Landau of Vedge and Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa, both for best chef in the mid-Atlantic region; and Jesse Ito of Royal Sushi & Izakaya for rising star chef of the year.
The full list of winners across the country is here. The James Beard Media Awards, which go to food-centric journalism, books, and broadcast media, were announced April 26 at a dinner in New York City prepared by a group of Philly chefs.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.