Chi-Town’s Own Damarr Brown Wins 2023 James Beard Award for Emerging Chef

The culinary world is keeping a close eye on this Black chef.

Damarr Brown, Chef de Cuisine at Virtue Restaurant in Chicago, has won the 2023 James Beard Award for Emerging Chef.

“It’s a huge honor. It’s like the Oscars of the food world.” Brown, a chef for 13 years, told Chicago’s CBS 2. He also described the path that brought him here

“I’ve never been able to cook food like this, the food that I grew up eating, the food that I saw my grandmother cooking,” he said. “I’ve also never gotten to cook for somebody who looked like me.”

The South Side Chicago chef said on his Instagram, “To say I was grateful would be an understatement. I am beyond blessed to be surrounded by an unwavering team that doesn’t flinch. Together we get it done, this is for us.”

He credited the women in his life for introducing him to the kitchen.

“Yeah, I was raised by three wonderful women,” he said. “My mother, Trena, my aunt, Inga, and my grandmother, Arlenem. They kept tight rings on me, so I would be in the kitchen next to them and helping them peel potatoes and picking green beans and all that kind of stuff.”

But success won’t get to his head. “I really focus on not letting my highs get too high or my lows get too low,” Brown told the outlet.

Black chefs followed a recipe for success at this year’s James Beard Awards. Rashida Holmes and Charlie Mitchell were also named finalists for the Emerging Chef award, and Serigne Mbaye was named a semifinalist.

The Black-owned restaurant where Brown works was also honored last year at the James Beard Awards. Owner and chef of Virtue Restaurant, Erik Williams, was named Best Regional Chef, according to EaterOlivia Watkins and Karen Washington of the Black Farmers Fund were among the 25 people of color who won a James Beard award this year.