Chad White Receives Second James Beard Award Semi-Final Nomination


Feb. 23 – A Spokane chef has been nominated for a prestigious culinary award.

Zona Blanca’s Chad White was named a semi-finalist for a regional James Beard Award, his second semi-final nomination.

He is one of 20 semi-finalists for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific, a category that includes Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska. White had previously received a nomination in the same category in 2020, before the organization took a year off to revamp and diversify its judging system.

Chefs, writers and restaurateurs covet James Beard awards like Michelin stars, White said.

“It’s like the Grammys of Chef Awards,” he said.

White said that in the past, given the attention he’s received since appearing on Bravo’s “Top Chef” season 13, some awards have felt like a popularity contest. But the James Beard Awards are another story.

“Especially now when I think back to Zona Blanca in its first location – we were a 400 square foot ceviche restaurant in the back of a beer hall sandwiched between a homeless shelter and a body shop. – not exactly what I assume to be a James Beard-named environment,” he said.

“But it’s not just about a very nice restaurant. It’s about the chef, the food and the quality they put into it.”

Getting the first nomination in 2020 was validation, he said. But being nominated a second time among friends like Melissa Miranda of Musang in Seattle and Sheldon Simeon at Tin Roof in Kahului, Hawaii, has been a source of much-needed solace after the lingering struggles of the past two years.

“No chef has been nominated twice (from Spokane),” he said. “So to be nominated twice – now I feel like I belong in this club.”

The James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards seek out and showcase outstanding members of the American food, beverage, and hospitality industries to promote “a strong, safe, inclusive, and ethical food community.”

“Winners demonstrate exceptional talent and creativity in their craft and commendable leadership among their colleagues and peers,” the website reads.

For many years, White said, the awards had been something of a “white man’s game.” But after the organization took time off last year to reorganize and diversify, he hopes the winners will start to reflect new talent.

A panel of judges – eight James Beard Award-winning professionals from across the industry – will select the finalists for each of the “Restaurant and Chef” categories; winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in June.

White announced in January that he was part of a group of restaurateurs opening a taco shop, Uno Mas, in the Spokane Valley. But this month, it announced it was closing its two High Tide Lobster Bar locations in Spokane due to high lobster prices.

“Failures are important for continued growth and success, but it’s definitely been an ego boost when I needed it most – it’s probably the best news I could have received,” did he declare. “I always want to share the wins with my team because I feel like they’re the reason I win. And so if there’s one thing that makes me happy, it’s that they can all win. be proud to work where they work.”


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