June 06, 2023
A Philadelphia restaurant and two of the city's culinary pros won high honors at the 2023 James Beard Awards on Monday night. Friday Saturday Sunday won outstanding restaurant; High Street Hospitality's Ellen Yin won outstanding restauranteur; and Kalaya Thai Kitchen's Chutatip "Nok" Suntaranon won best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The awards were presented during a live ceremony in Chicago on Monday night. It was the most successful night at James Beard Awards for the Philadelphia restaurant industry since 2017, when Stephen Starr, Greg Vernick and Michael Solomonov won their respective categories.
Yin is a five-time nominee for outstanding restauranteur, first recognized for her work with High Street Hospitality in 2017, 20 years after opening Fork in 1997 and helping to transform Old City into a culinary destination. She started High Street Hospitality with chef Eli Kulp in 2014, and the company operates several popular restaurants in the city, including Fork, at 306 Market St.; a. kitchen+bar, at 135 S. 18th St. in Rittenhouse; and High Street, at 101 S. Ninth St., which reopened in Center City earlier this year after closing its original Old City location.
"I fell in love with this industry when I was a teenager, but it took me 25 years to realize that a restaurant was the first place that I felt a true sense of belonging," Yin said in her acceptance speech. "That first restaurant ... in Rumson, New Jersey shaped my future, making endless possibilities come to fruition. To Philadelphia, you made me belong."
Yin has supported Philadelphia's culinary scene through work with the Sisterly Love Collective, an alliance of women chefs across the region, as well as The Wonton Project, a pandemic-era dumpling pop-up that donates 5% of its monthly proceeds to support Asian American leadership, advocacy and justice organizations.
Friday Saturday Sunday serves and eight-course tasting menu at 261 S. 21st St. in the Center City's Rittenhouse neighborhood. Philadelphia-natives Chad Williams and Hanna Williams opened the restaurant in late 2016 and its guests have ranged from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to former Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. While accepting the outstanding restaurant award, Chad and Hanna Williams were joined on stage by several members of the restaurant's staff.
"I am eternally grateful for everything you bring to the restaurant every day," Chad Williams said. "You bring our vision to life and you have changed our world, and it means everything to the guests that come in and make this place their second home."
Friday Saturday Sunday originally opened in 1973, but when Williamses took over in 2015, it was completely transformed. This year was the first time the restaurant had been nominated for a James Beard Award. Friday Saturday Sunday is one of the highest-rated eateries in the city on Resy and OpenTable.
Suntaranon's James Beard Award for best chef of the Mid-Atlantic region recognizes her at the popular Kalaya Thai Kitchen, the restaurant she opened in 2019. She was nominated for the same award in 2022, two years after Kalaya was a semifinalist for best new restaurant.
Kalaya, which moved from the Italian Market to Fishtown in November, serves authentic southern Thai cuisine with an array of spices and curries made on-site.
"Yesterday, my husband asked me to practice an acceptance speech or whatever," Suntaranon said. "Sometimes, I don't speak English ... so when I started a few words, I started crying because this is something I want so bad. I want it so bad (because) when I opened the restaurant, I named it after my mom, the woman who worked really hard and worked every minute of her life to make my life and my brother's life fantastic."
Since Kalaya opened, it has been named the best restaurant in the country by Esquire and Food & Wine. Its expanded menu, served at the Fishtown restaurant, includes Thai sodas, dessert cocktails, durian sticky rice and three varieties of shaved ice made with different syrups and fresh fruit.
One more Philadelphia restaurant professional also was honored with a James Beard Award: On Saturday, Toby Maloney, Hop Sing Laundromat's bartender-in-residence, won an award for his book, "The Bartender's Manifesto: How To Think, Drink, and Create Cocktails Like A Pro." The book, co-authored by Emma Janzen, is the bartender's second award from the foundation. His first was for outstanding bar program at Hop Sing Laundromat in 2015, the Inquirer reported.
A total of six Philly restaurants and chefs had been nominated for the prestigious restaurant awards in 2023. The others were Amanda Shulman, the chef at Her Place Supper Club; Jesse Ito, owner of Royal Sushi & Izakaya; and Dionicio Jimenez, head chef at Cantina La Martina, a bar and restaurant beneath the Market-Frankford El's Somerset Station in Frankford.