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Cristina Martinez, Marc Vetri, and More Philly Chefs Are Finalists in the 2020 James Beard Awards

Kalaya also made the finalists list in the prestigious restaurant awards, which are delayed but still happening

James Beard
Chef James Beard, namesake of the annual food awards
Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

The finalists in the 2020 James Beard Foundation Awards, often described as the Oscars of the food world, were announced Monday and five Philly chefs and restaurants made the cut. Visit Philly, the city’s tourism promotion agency, sponsored the announcement and co-hosted a livestream with JBF CEO Clare Reichenbach.

Nok Suntaranon, chef-owner of hit Thai BYOB Kalaya — Eater Philly’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year — made an appearance on the livestream. Kalaya is nominated for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. Suntaranon joked that going forward, she’ll strive to be the best takeout of the year.

In addition to feeding health care workers through Off Their Plate and Fuel the Fight, Suntaranon has been making family meals for local restaurant workers who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic. Other restaurant owners have donated money and food for those meals. “It’s the least we could do for our friends in the industry: We could feed them,” Suntaranon said. “We’ve had lots of help from our restaurant friends and I’m really grateful. The Philadelphia industry is the most beautiful industry I could ever ask for — everybody comes together.”

Along with Kalaya, Philly nominees include Marc Vetri, the star chef behind Vetri Cucina and the new Fiorella. He’s a finalist in the national Outstanding Chef category.

In the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category, three Philadelphians made the list: Cristina Martinez of taco destination South Philly Barbacoa, Rich Landau of elegant vegan restaurant Vedge, and Nick Elmi of the acclaimed Laurel.

The James Beard Award winners in the journalism, broadcast media, and cookbook categories will be announced on May 27. The restaurant and chef winners will be announced on September 25.

Today’s finalists announcement was originally scheduled to take place at the Barnes museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway on March 25, before coronavirus canceled everyone’s plans for pretty much everything. The list of 2020 Philly-area semi-finalists, revealed in February, is here. And here is the full list of finalists across the country.

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.