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South Philly Barbacoa’s Cristina Martinez Wins Best Mid-Atlantic Chef Prize at the 2022 James Beard Awards

Martinez was also nominated in the category in 2019 and 2020 but won the award this year

A woman stands at a white podium that reads 2022 James Beard Awards with an orange and green background.
Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa.
Getty Images

The 2022 James Beard Award winners were announced at a Chicago ceremony on Monday, June 13, and Philly took home one award: The Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic prize went to Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico. She was also nominated for the award in 2019 and 2020.

Martinez opened her first brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2015 at 1140 S. Ninth Street in the Italian Market with partner Ben Miller, serving (and frequently selling out of) barbacoa tacos inspired by recipes from her home in Capulhuac, Mexico. Martinez became part of the national consciousness in 2018 when she was featured on an episode of Chef’s Table that explored her story as an undocumented chef and her activist work around immigrants’ rights. She opened a daily taco spot, Casa Mexico, also on South Ninth Street, in 2020. Her newest restaurant is set to open sometime in 2022.

Philly had two other chef finalists in the Mid-Atlantic category: Jesse Ito of Royal Izakaya and Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon of Kalaya Thai Kitchen. Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality was up for Outstanding Restaurateur — though the award went to Chris Bianco of Tratto, Pane Bianco, and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. Corinne’s Place, a longstanding soul food restaurant across the river in Camden founded by Corinne Bradley-Powers, was one of six winners in the America’s Classics category.

The first round of semifinalists, which were announced February 23, featured 11 chefs and restaurants from the Philly area, including Her Place Supper Club and Friday Saturday Sunday.

Following accusations of bias and lack of diversity, the James Beard Foundation canceled its 2020 awards midseason and its 2021 awards amid an audit. Between then and now, the foundation has sought to right the wrongs of previous years through policy changes and the creation of an independent ethics committee.

The full list of 2022 winners can be found here.

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

South Philly Barbacoa

1140 South 9th Street, , PA 19147 (215) 694-3797 Visit Website

Italian Market

South 9th Street, , PA 19147 (215) 278-2903 Visit Website

Her Place Supper Club

1740 Sansom Street, , PA 19103 Visit Website

Casa Mexico

1134 South 9th Street, , PA 19147 (267) 470-1464 Visit Website

Friday Saturday Sunday

261 South 21st Street, , PA 19103 (215) 546-4232 Visit Website

Royal Izakaya

780 South 2nd Street, , PA 19147 (267) 909-9002 Visit Website

Kalaya Thai Kitchen

764 South 9th Street, , PA 19147 (215) 385-3777 Visit Website