Most career fields have an award system to acknowledge the best in their craft. In the restaurant and hospitality industry, the prestigious James Beard Award can give a chef the credibility they have worked their tail off for.

Who is James Beard and Why is this award so important?

If you really get into the food competition shows, you have probably heard of a chef being a James Beard award winner or finalist. This holds more than a teaspoon of street cred in kitchens across America.

2022 JAMES BEARD AWARDS Image of Hawa Hassan, Clare Reichenbach, Alexis Nikole Nelson, Jamila Robinson, and Marcus Samuelsson. Photo: Clay Williams
Image of Hawa Hassan, Clare Reichenbach, Alexis Nikole Nelson, Jamila Robinson, and Marcus Samuelsson. Photo: Clay Williams
In 1990 the James Beard Foundation established the James Beard Foundation Awards for excellence in the food and beverage and related industries. The first awards were given in 1991. By shining a spotlight on the people behind the food we were learning to appreciate and enjoy, the James Beard Awards preempted the era of the celebrity chef we now take for granted. The James Beard Foundation has evolved beyond the scope of influence any one person could have had, but all the while keeping true to the ideals that James Beard professed—that is, emphasizing the importance of simple, wholesome food, good cooking, and good eating by educating, mentoring, supporting, and caring for the people who prepare and enjoy it. We continue to build on the foundation James Beard laid and seek to fulfill our mission to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.

Did you know that only 19% of chefs in the United States are women? Yep. And only 7% are head chefs. 

Chefs like Abbi Merris are Changing Those Stats One Plate at a Time

Abbi Merriss graduated from Reitz high school in 2001. She is the co-owner and culinary mastermind behind the dishes and cocktails at Bluebeard in Indianapolis, Indiana. We've featured articles about Abbi in the past and her sister is Taylor Merriss, the Special Projects Coordinator with the Evansville Police Department.

Read More: Food Network's Best Indianapolis Bluebeard Evansville Connection |

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)

Abbi is a semifinalist for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region. The nominees will be announced on Wednesday, March 29, and winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Let's cross our knives and hope for a deserving win for Abbi.

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