James Beard Announces 2024 Restaurant and Chef Finalists

Two Detroit area restaurants are among those who made the final ballot.
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Mamba Hamissi and Nadia Nijimbere. // Photograph by Chuk Nowak

The James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization that celebrates and supports the talented people behind America’s food industry, announced the finalists for this year’s Restaurant and Chef awards — and two metro Detroit restaurants made the cut.

Mamba Hamissi and his wife Nadia Nijimbere of Baobab Fare in New Center will appear in the “Outstanding Restaurateur” category alongside four other chefs from Washington, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Washington D.C.

The couple, who came to Detroit as refugees, opened the East African restaurant back in 2021, pulling inspiration for their authentic dishes from Burundi, Africa, which is where Hamissi originally hails from.

Last year, Hamissi appeared, and subsequently won, Food Network’s Chopped and donated his $10,000 prize to Freedom House, an organization that works to support asylum seekers in Michigan, and Burundi Kids.

Hajime Sato of Sozai, a seafood and sushi restaurant in Clawson that prides itself on sustainability, was also named a finalist. Sato is up for an award in the “Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)” category against Vinnie Cimino (of Cordelia in Cleveland), Jose Salazar (of Mita’s in Cincinnati), Sujan Sukar (of Indienne in Chicago), and Jenner Tomaska (of Esmé in Chicago).

In January, James Beard released its list of semi-finalists, which included several area restaurants in several categories including Selden Standard for “Outstanding Restaurant,” Alpino for “Best New Restaurant,” and Shatila Bakery for “Outstanding Bakery.”

In addition to Sato, four other metro Detroit chefs were also named semi-finalists in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category. They included Doug Hewitt of Freya, Ji Hye Kim of Miss Kim, Dan Klenotic of Bellflower, and John Yelinek of Ladder 4 Wine Bar. You can read up on all of the semi-finalists here.

Winners of this year’s James Beard awards will be celebrated during a live ceremony at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on June 10, 2024. Tickets to that event go on sale April 9. You can also livestream the event on Eater.

James Beard is expected to announce nominees for its media awards on April 30, 2024.

For more information, visit jamesbeard.org.