The 2022 James Beard Award Winner For Outstanding Chef

Every year, the James Beard Foundation names the best of the best in the restaurant, food, and hospitality industries — including one outstanding chef. This year, the coveted prize has gone to Mashama Bailey, executive chef at The Grey in Savannah, Georgia.

The 2022 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony is the first since 2019, reported Eater. Facing controversy and criticism during a period of upheaval in the food industry, the foundation canceled its 2020 and 2021 awards ceremonies, using the hiatus to re-examine its internal practices, diversify its judging committees, and create more inclusive awards categories.

In her speech, Bailey highlighted key issues behind many of these controversies, which continue to produce inequality in the restaurant and food industries. "Black and brown folks, immigrants, mom-and-pop shops have been bubbling underneath the surface of this industry, working hard for a long time establishing our place in American food," said Bailey in her acceptance speech, per CNN. "I stand on the backs of many of them and today a little Black girl or a little Black boy can see themselves as a future Outstanding Chef."

Who is Chef Mashama Bailey?

Per The Grey's website, Bailey hails from New York City, having been born in the Bronx and raised in Queens. After attending the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), she spent over a decade working in acclaimed New York City restaurants — such as Gabrielle Hamilton's famed spot, Prune. 

Bailey has gained national recognition since becoming the executive chef at The Grey. According to IMDB, she served as the subject for an episode of the popular Netflix show "Chef's Table" in 2019, in which she explored her Georgia's culinary roots. This year's win isn't even her first James Beard award. As The Grey's site reported, she won the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Southeast award in 2019.

Per CNN, other nominees for this year's Outstanding Chef included Reem Assil (from Reem's in San Francisco and Oakland), Peter Chang (of Peter Chang in Maryland and Virginia), Jason Vincent (from Chicago's Giant), and Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi (from Joule in Seattle).