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Philly chef and James Beard Award nominee Cristina Martinez. Photo: Samantha Madera / AL DÍA News.
Philly chef and James Beard Award nominee Cristina Martinez. Photo: Samantha Madera / AL DÍA News.

Cristina Martinez among three Philly chefs selected as finalists for the James Beard Awards

The chef nominees include Martinez, Jesse Ito, and Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon. All were nominated under the ‘Best Chef’ category.

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Three Philly-based chefs have been chosen as finalists for the 2022 James Beard Awards. The local chefs have been nominated under the ‘Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic’ category.

The James Beard Awards is an awards ceremony presented by the James Beard Foundation

The foundation is a New York City-based nonprofit organization intended to celebrate and uplift the vast food culture in the U.S.

The nominated chefs include Jesse Ito, Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, and Cristina Martinez. Additionally, Philly’s Ellen Yin was nominated under the “Outstanding Restaurateur” Award.

Ito is a chef at Royal Izakaya, while Suntaranon is a chef for Kalaya Thai Kitchen. Martinez herself is a chef whose work can be seen at South Philly Barbacoa.

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Martinez and Benjamin Miller — her husband and business partner — began the People’s Kitchen.

The duo began to coordinate the preparation of 215-300 meals per day for Philly families who needed the support.

Martinez also, in conversation with Today, called the effort a chance to observe “what we were missing in the system a little bit too, and how our restaurants excluded certain people.”

One way this was achieved was by encouraging South Philly’s Latino community to get more involved in participating in census data.

The People’s Kitchen is a partnership between the 215 People’s Alliance and South Philly Barbacoa. The partnership worked to serve meals to those who were struggling to secure food.

The James Beard Awards acknowledgements did not stop at Martinez and company. Among the semifinalists, 11 chefs and restaurants from Philly were nominated.

The James Beard Awards ceremony will be held on June 13 in Chicago. 

This will be the first time the awards have been held since 2019 due to accusations of racial bias in 2020 and a following audit the next year.

The accusation resulted in a new independent ethics committee and further policy changes.

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