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No Twin Cities Chefs Took Home a James Beard Award This Year

Pastry chef Shawn McKenzie was a finalist in the outstanding pastry chef category


No Twin Cities chefs won a James Beard Award at last night’s red-carpet ceremony in Chicago. Pastry chef Shawn McKenzie, the sole Minnesota finalist this year, was nominated for outstanding pastry chef, a national category. That award ultimately went to pastry chef Margarita Manzke of LA restaurant République.

McKenzie was recognized for her work at Café Cerés, which pairs flavors from the eastern Mediterranean region like pistachio, tahini, za’atar, and olive oil with brown sugar, brown butter, and even earthy whole-grain flours. Raised in Olympia, Washington, McKenzie moved to the Twin Cities in 2012 to run the pastry programs at chef Isaac Becker’s restaurants (Burch Steak, Bar La Brassa, and 112 Eatery), and eventually moved into roles at Penny’s Coffee, Cardamom, Rustica, and Café Cerés, which she opened in partnership with chef Danny del Prado in 2021.

”I am truly thankful for being noticed in this way,” McKenzie told the Star Tribune at the ceremony. “My father would have been proud and that is a true win for me.”

Local chefs Ann Ahmed (Khâluna), Christina Nguyen (Hai Hai), Karyn Tomlinson (Myriel), and Yia Vang (Union Hmong Kitchen) were all named semifinalists for best chef: Midwest this year, though none went on to the finalist round. According to the Star Tribune, it’s the first time in 20 years that the Twin Cities have been shut out of that category.

There was, however, a significant win at the James Beard media awards: Twin Cities filmmaker Daniel Klein and his colleagues Hallie Davison and Jorge Gaviria won the commercial media award for their series Masienda Presents. Known for his work on the documentary series the Perennial Plate (also a Beard winner), Klein joined Masienda a year ago. The series delves into the stories of cooks, farmers, and chefs working with heirloom corn and masa, and even features Minneapolis’s own chef Gustavo Romero.

Last year, the Twin Cities had an especially momentous win at the Beards: Owamni was named the best new restaurant in America.

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards. Eater is partnering with the James Beard Foundation to livestream the awards in 2023. All editorial content, including this post, is produced independently of the James Beard Foundation.