While you were going about your regular Monday night business, chef Edouardo Jordan was making history: Last night, he took home two James Beard Awards (the Oscars for the restaurant industry), one as Best Chef: Northwest for his work at Salare and another for Best New Restaurant for JuneBaby. Though previously nominated, it was his first win—and a double one at that. Worth noting, too, that he was among just five black chefs to be nominated or win an award in the history of the event.
This is the culmination of a year’s worth of buzz (many years, really, if you’ve been paying attention) around Jordan, with critics around the country applauding JuneBaby especially. He’s been called out in GQ, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Bon Appetit and here in our very own pages. Why? Because JuneBaby has become more than just a restaurant serving great food—though it’s definitely that, too. It’s more than just being in the right place at the right time—though this city is definitely having a love affair with Southern food right now, and not just at JuneBaby. But there’s something more important going on here: In an age of acute racial and cultural awareness, JuneBaby has become a tool for Jordan to educate diners on the history and purpose of Southern cuisine. Even following JuneBaby's Instagram is informative.
Here in Seattle, Jordan’s win comes as no surprise. As a chef, he’s captivated our attention since his days manning that awesome wood-fired oven at Matt Dillon’s Bar Sajor (R.I.P.). We loved both Salare and JuneBaby from the beginning. We’ve learned that he loves Sod House, a bakery near both his restaurants in Ravenna, and finds sanctuary at Breakfast Club in Lake City. We also dig Jordan’s quote from our December 2016 issue: “We need more quality restaurants, and not simply more restaurants. That’s what’s going to make this city a hot food town. I’m always worried about the number of restaurants that open in the city, and nearly all of them are doing the same thing or same concept from the same chef/owners.” It’s refreshing to find someone who actually sticks to what they believe in.
Though you’ll never be able to easily get a table at JuneBaby again, his win is a great thing for Seattle on a national scale. It proves that Seattle’s restaurant scene is more than just fiddlehead ferns and smoked salmon. It proves that passion—and unparalled hustle—will make people take notice. And it proves that you don’t have to be the biggest name in town (previous winners of Best Chef: Northwest include Renee Erickson, Matt Dillon, Maria Hines and Jason Wilson) to take home the prize. So now...who will be next?
— James Beard Foundation (@beardfoundation) May 8, 2018