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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan wins big at the 2018 James Beard awards, bringing home two prizes

Seattle star chef Edouardo Jordan, pictured here in a JuneBaby T-shirt at Salare. (Alan Berner / Seattle Times)
By Bethany Jean Clement Seattle Times

Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan won big at the 2018 James Beard awards on Monday night, bringing home the medal for Best New Restaurant in the country for his Southern star JuneBaby — and the prize of Best Chef: Northwest for himself. These two awards from the restaurant industry’s most prestigious organization top Jordan’s sizable pile of recent accolades — and most deservedly so.

Accepting the Best New Restaurant award, Jordan invoked his heroes, saying, “I stand in the shadows of chef Patrick Clark, chef Rodney Scott, chef Nina Compton, chef Dolester Miles, chef Marcus Samuelsson, chef Leah Chase, and all the other chefs that never made it to this stage, but they’ve been pounding their knives against the walls and their cutting boards, and we finally cracked through… This is a beautiful time in our industry, that we’re able to capture the beautiful color and pictures that actually have made American cuisine — the food and the history.”

After thanking his staff and his parents, Jordan made everyone with a heart tear up by dedicating the award to his four-year-old son. “I love you to the moon and back — and this award is for you,” he said. “And I want you to dream big, my little star. We’re making history tonight, and daddy wants you to know that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. And the future is yours, but don’t forget the past.”

In an interview leading up to the awards, Jordan described how JuneBaby, which he opened last year two blocks away from his much-lauded Salare, evolved from creating “something that was fulfilling for me as a second restaurant — something that wasn’t going to stress me the hell out” to something much greater. “It became almost like an obligation, almost a responsibility for me as an African-American chef,” he said, “to actually explore and educate [about] home Southern food. It became a deeper mission … trying to pass that knowledge along to people as they want to learn — as they want to eat.” Jordan was also quick to acknowledge his staff, saying that “awards and recognitions are definitely things that I appreciate, that I’ve worked hard for. And I’m appreciative that I’m being recognized and my staff is being recognized, because I can’t do this on my own.”

Jordan also credits Seattle chef Matt Dillon for giving him a breakthrough role in charge of the kitchen at Dillon’s now-shuttered restaurant Bar Sajor. “Nothing comes overnight. The first half of my career… it had always been a struggle — never really feeling like I got an opportunity to progress in the kitchen,” Jordan said. While that first half of his career — which he began as a server at a Bennigan’s in Florida — included training in the country’s highest echelons of dining such as The French Laundry, he watched others around him get breaks and promotions “until I moved back to Seattle.” Jordan says now, “I really put my heart and soul into his restaurant… I appreciate him giving me that opportunity. Not many people gave me that — like literally handing me the keys.”

Since then, Jordan’s rise has been meteoric — and as a chef of color in a very white industry, he’s been pointedly raising awareness about race, America and food. Having experienced homelessness as a child, he also gives his time, his teaching, his food and more to nonprofits such as Northwest Harvest, seeking to end hunger here, and Seattle’s FareStart, helping train people who are homeless or disadvantaged to work in restaurants.

Congratulations to Jordan and to his staff at both JuneBaby and Salare. These two James Beard awards are a credit to them and to the industry as a whole.