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Big, well-deserved ups go to two of Philadelphia’s most-talented chefs: Esquire magazine released its picks for the Best New Restaurants in America and two Philadelphia greats took top honors.
The annual list names Chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon’s Kalaya Thai Kitchen as the Best Restaurant in America 2020 and Chef Omar Tate of Honeysuckle as the Chef of the Year.
Jeff Gordinier, Esquire Food & Drinks editor and a frequent speaker at the Philly Chef Conference, puts together the list every year highlighting the most outstanding new restaurants in the country — from Chicago and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. and, of course, Philadelphia.
Showing the love for the City of Brotherly Love, the Esquire editorial team heaped praise on Kalaya Thai Kitchen, a 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist that showcases the authentic southern Thai recipes chef-owner Nok Suntaranon learned from her mother, for whom the restaurant is named.
”Even in a city with arguably the most exciting food scene in the United States, Kalaya leaves the competition in the dust,” says Gordinier.
For Chef Omar Tate of Honeysuckle, it was the chef-poet’s unmistakable voice and community-driven mission that helped to confer the Chef of the Year title from the magazine.
Gordinier writes, “Itinerant and unsinkable, improvisatory and bold, Tate captured the radical shifts of 2020 with everything he undertook.”
Tate’s current undertaking will transform his critically acclaimed pop-up concept into a community center for his West Philadelphia neighborhood, Mantua, with the help of contributions via his GoFundMe. Honeysuckle began as a New York-based dinner series and more recently evolved into a take-out and pop-up series, all the while examining Black culture and history through the culinary lens.
To those that ask why Esquire would publish a “best of” list during the global pandemic, Gordinier says, “Well, we’re doing it as an expression of support — love, really — for the chefs and bartenders and servers and dishwashers and maître d’s….”
And we couldn’t agree more that now is the time to show our restaurants and their staff all the love.
Check out Esquire’s full list of the top restaurants and chefs.