The Cookbooks That Won Big At The 2024 James Beard Awards

Receiving a James Beard Award is a high honor for American chefs and restaurateurs, but the nation's best and brightest cookbook authors also receive accolades from the esteemed organization. During its 2024 awards ceremony, the James Beard Foundation praised a selection of authors who published notable works in 2023. In the General cookbook category, Sohla El-Waylly emerged victorious for "Start Here: Instructions for Becoming a Better Cook," which was the chef and media personality's first foray into the cookbook world. The text is brimming with tips and practical guidance, but it also contains 200-plus recipes that home chefs can use to hone their skills in the kitchen under El-Waylly's tutelage.

Like many other James Beard awardees, El-Waylly got her start in a rather unexpected place (in her case, it was Baskin-Robbins). Fellow James Beard Award winner Hetty Lui McKinnon also developed her impressive culinary skills in a surprising place, i.e., her home kitchen in Sydney, Australia. Her 2023 culinary offering, "Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds," which the James Beard Foundation honored in its Vegetable-Focused Cooking category, featured a variety of vegetarian preparations inspired by the author's father. In the book, McKinnon draws on her experience navigating the differences between her home in Australia and the traditions instilled in her by her Chinese heritage, which include an appreciation for vegetable and fruit-based recipes.

Notable names in baking, beverages, and other categories

When it comes to helpful baking tips for home chefs, author and TV host Regula Ysewijn offers a unique perspective in "Dark Rye and Honey Cake: Festival Baking from Belgium, the Heart of the Low Countries," a historically rich study of Belgian baking traditions. This captivating account of traditional preparations landed Ysewijn a coveted James Beard Award in the category of Baking and Desserts. As for the Beverage with Recipes category, author, mixologist, and ethnobotanist Danny Childs was awarded a James Beard medal for "Slow Drinks: A Field Guide to Foraging and Fermenting Seasonal Sodas, Botanical Cocktails, Homemade Wines, and More." Childs' book features a range of recipes categorized according to season, with each season featuring carefully selected ingredients.

Along with cookbook authors, the James Beard Foundation honored many heralded chefs and restaurants. Michael Rafidi, owner of the D.C.-based establishment Albi, was named Outstanding Chef, while Dakar NOLA of New Orleans won in the Best New Restaurant category. In the category of Outstanding Restaurant, Langbaan of Portland, Oregon received acclaim thanks to its presentation of traditional Thai recipes featuring locally sourced ingredients (here are just a few reasons why locally harvested food is often the best). For most winners, a James Beard Award exemplifies the hard work and dedication necessary to rise among the ranks of America's top culinary minds.