Kasama Restaurant Chefs Win Best Chef At James Beard Awards

Tim Flores and Genie Kwon of Kasama won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes.

Chefs Tim Flores and Genie Kwon of Filipino restaurant Kasama in Chicago, Illinois, won as the Best Chef: Great Lakes category at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards 2023. This is the first James Beard Award and second nomination for the Filipino restaurant.

Offstage host and cookbook editor Francis Lam called the bakery and restaurant a “rad restaurant” and a “killer café with amazing pastries and simple Filipino home cooking” and a “fire-tasting menu”. He gushed about the Kasama’s dishes, especially about two versions of its pork belly adobo, the gata or coconut milk-glazed version and the maitake mushroom-glazed version.

The James Beard Foundation Awards is the Oscars of the culinary world. 

Kasama was also nominated for the James Beard Awards last year under the Best New Restaurant category before being nominated in a different category and winning it this year. This is not the first time that the restaurant has won an award. It was awarded a Michelin Star in last year’s Michelin Guide Chicago of 2022, one of four from the city that earned a star that year. It was also listed as part of The New York Times’ 2021 Restaurant List.

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Chef Margarita Lorenzana-Manzke of LA's République and Philippines' Wildflour and Republique's Honey Cake.

Photo by Wildflour and Republique.

Another Filipino Chef Margarita Lorenzana-Manzke of Los Angeles-based restaurant République won the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker category. Chef Vince Bugtong of Abacá, a San Francisco Filipino restaurant, was also nominated for the same category. Another Filipino Chef Aaron Verzosa of Archipelago in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A was also nominated in the category Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific Chef this year. Erwan Heussaff had earlier won under the Social Media category of the James Beard Foundation Media Awards.

The menu of Kasama is described as modern Filipino.

The couple were dressed in matching green velvet suits when they received the awards.

Here are Genie’s and Tim’s full speeches:

Genie Kwon: “Kasama is a place. We have 46 incredible team members, and they are just people who just want to take care of people. And everything has fallen into place because of that. We love you guys. Some of our management team (is) here. I would like to thank my husband Tim. We have pretty much been together for every minute of every day for the last eight years. I wouldn’t recommend it but it’s been a crazy ride. We would like to thank our partners and our incredible guest and family and our puppy Longganisa. They are watching so thank you for your support. We are so proud to represent Chicago.”

Tim Flores: “I never thought I would be cooking Filipino food until we opened Kasama and to be recognized for cooking my mom’s food is insane. My parents are in the Philippines right now on a beach somewhere right now drinking out of a coconut while I stand here on stage on the verge of sh*tting my pants. So, lastly, I just wanna thank my business partner and wife Genie Kwon. She is a force and nobody will work harder to get what she wants than her.”

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For more information, visit the James Beard Foundation website for more information. 


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Roselle Miranda
Roselle Miranda is the chief food editor of Yummy.ph.
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