In response to the announcement that the James Beard Foundation would not name winners in the restaurant and chef categories for the 2020 James Beard Awards, The LEE Initiative and Maker’s Mark have announced that they will honor each of the chefs nominated in the Regional Best Chef Awards and acknowledge their achievements and roles as community leaders. Each regional best chef nominee will be offered a $3,000 grant from The LEE Initiative to be used for continuing education or relief support in each nominee’s community.

The LEE Initiative, led by Chef Edward Lee, and Maker’s Mark have been a driving force in supporting and relieving the restaurant industry during the 2020 global pandemic, providing food and resources to more than 500,000 restaurant workers in 19 cities across the U.S. 

The grants will be provided to all 88 nominees in the following categories: Rising Star Chef of the Year, Best Chef: California, Best Chef: Great Lakes, Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, Best Chef: Midwest, Best Chef: Mountain, Best Chef: New York State, Best Chef: Northeast, Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific, Best Chef: South, Best Chef: Southeast, Best Chef: Southwest, Best Chef: Texas, Outstanding Baker, and Outstanding Pastry Chef.

“We understand the reasons why the James Beard Award winners will not be announced as planned in 2020, and we agree with their decision to postpone future awards as well, however we also acknowledge and appreciate the work behind each chef’s nomination,” say Edward Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek of The LEE Initiative. “The finalist list of the 2020 Awards was the most diverse and exciting collection of talent that has been publicized in history, and we believe that celebrating that achievement speaks to the future of our industry.”

“While a grand celebration isn’t top priority this year, we still want to honor these nominees and their work, and we hope that all of the chefs will continue their education and support of their communities and keep their restaurants alive,” adds Rob Samuels of Maker’s Mark. “There are so many restaurants at risk of closing forever. These notable chefs, their work, and their restaurants are essential. While the present is uncertain, these chefs and all restaurant workers fighting for our brighter tomorrow represent the future of cuisine in America. You are not alone. We are with you every step.”

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