2 Arizona Chefs are 2024 James Beard Award Finalists

Two Arizona chefs have been named finalists in the 2024 James Beard Awards.

Rene Andrade of Bacanora in Phoenix and Crystal Kass of Valentine in Phoenix are among the honorable nominees for the prestigious James Beard Awards, which recognize outstanding chefs, restaurateurs and other leaders in the culinary arts across multiple categories each year. 

Representing Arizona in this year’s awards, Andrade is nominated for Best Chef – Southwest and Kass for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker. Both Andrade and Kass showcase continued excellence and dedication to their craft, which has earned them a spot in the final round of the James Beard Awards and the opportunity to take home the winning title. The winners of the 2024 James Beard Awards will be announced during an awards ceremony on June 10. 

Chef Andrade is known for his innovative takes on Southwestern fare, attracting diners all from over the Valley.  Andrade opened his Sonoran restaurant Bacanora in 2021, which features popular menu items, such as elote, caramelo and pollo asado cooked on wood-fired grills, as well as colorful cocktails. Andrade also owns local taqueria Huarachis, has served as Executive Chef at multiple restaurants, including Ghost Ranch and Tempe Public Market Café, and appeared on an episode of Guy Fieri’s game show “Guy’s Grocery Games.” Andrade’s cooking and influence on the local restaurant scene has earned him multiple James Beard Award nominations, including Best New Restaurant in 2022 and Best Chef — Southwest in 2023. 

With years of pastry and baking experience, Pastry Chef Kass currently utilizes her talent and creativity at Valentine in Phoenix, where she has created a rotating menu of delectable pastries that feature unique Sonoran influences. Her masterful creations available at Valentine include the Mesquite Miso Chocolate Chip Cookie featuring mesquite flour, piloncillo, a white miso cookie, Guanaja chocolate and piloncillo-miso salt; the gluten-free Blue Corn Shortbread featuring blue cornmeal and Mexican cinnamon shortbread topped with granulated sugar; and the Sticky Bun made with squash and a soft white Sonoran wheat sweet roll filled with Medjool dates and glazed with Medjool date & rose water caramel. Kass was also a semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker in 2023. 

Often referred to as the “Oscars of the food world,” the James Beard Awards are among the nation’s most prestigious honors recognizing leaders in the culinary and food media industries. Established in 1990, the awards recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability and a culture where all can thrive.

The winners in the restaurant and chef categories will be announced at a ceremony on June 10 in Chicago. 

To view the complete list of finalists for the 2024 James Beard Awards, click here.

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