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Spokane chef of Ruins, Pullman restaurant named James Beard semifinalists

Tony Brown, pictured on July 25, 2014 in Spokane, has been named a semifinalist for best chef in the Northwest by the James Beard Foundation.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND/The Spokesman-Review)

A downtown Spokane restaurant chef was named among the best in the Northwest by the James Beard Foundation.

Tony Brown, chef and owner of Ruins, 225 W. Riverside Ave., earned the distinction after the foundation announced its 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists Wednesday, according to the foundation’s website.

Brown and 19 other chefs were chosen “Best Chef” among chefs in Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Dan Koommoo of Crafted in Yakima and four Seattle chefs also were named.

Brown founded Ruins in 2014 and the restaurant quickly won praise for its craft cocktails, small plates and rotating eclectic menu. Ruins was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Guy’s Grocery Games” on the Food Network. The restaurant was on North Monroe Street before moving to the Riverside Avenue location in 2021.

The Black Cypress, a Pullman restaurant, was one of 20 restaurants across the country that earned the “Outstanding Hospitality” designation. Lark in Seattle was also selected.

Nick Pitsilionis, owner of the downtown Pullman restaurant, said the honor was a “nice validation” for the work the restaurant tries to do. He credited his staff for the nomination.

“I’m Greek and it’s a critical sort of concept in our culture,” Pitsilionis said of hospitality.

Nominees will be announced March 29 and winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the website says.

The nonprofit foundation supports “the people behind America’s food culture” and pushes for new standards in the restaurant industry so that everyone can thrive. The awards were first given in 1991.

Previous semifinalists from Spokane for best chef in the Northwest are Anna Vogel of Italia Trattoria in 2018; Chad White of Zona Blanca in 2020 and 2022; Adam Hegsted for his work at the former restaurant Wandering Table in 2016; and Jeremy Hansen of the former restaurant Sante in 2015.