If the James Beard Awards are the Academy Awards of the culinary world, then we may soon have an epicurean Oscar winner in our midst.
This week, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced that Daisy Ryan, the chef and co-owner of Bell’s in Los Alamos, was a semifinalist in the “Best Chef: California” category. She was one of 20 chefs from the Golden State to get the nod. The finalists will be announced on March 29 and the winners will be feted on June 5 during the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony in the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
“The JBF and yearly awards are a totem of excellence in our profession and to be included in what is a diverse and spectacular list of other chefs in the California category is pretty cool,” said Greg Ryan, Daisy’s husband and co-proprietor of Bell’s as well as Bar Le Cote in Los Olivos. “We are passionate and intentional about what we do and appreciate when that is recognized by our hospitality and restaurant peers.”
The JBF first hosted the awards in 1991, and now honor winners across 23 restaurant and chef categories, which does not include the extensive list of media awards. The “Best Chef” award honors “chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions while contributing positively to their broader community.”
It’s not the first national recognition for Bell’s, which is one of the few Central Coast restaurants to have earned a Michelin star. Nor is Daisy Ryan new to the spotlight, being named as Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef” in 2020.
Greg Ryan said they are “honored and humbled” by the nomination, and see it as a broader acknowledgement of the growing culinary community in the Santa Ynez Valley. “To be a leading catalyst in helping give greater exposure to a more regional and national audience to what the Santa Ynez Valley has to offer is something that we take great pride in and believe helps raise the profile of this region,” he said.