On Monday night, Mashama Bailey, partner and executive chef of the Savannah-based restaurant, The Grey, was awarded the 2019 James Beard award for best chef in the southeast.

Bailey was nominated in the category for the second year in a row, and is the second female of color to win a best chef regional Beard award following Nina Compton of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, who won last year as the Beard best chef in the South.

 

"We should all be very proud of ourselves," Bailey said while accepting the award. "We are moving this country forward in the right direction... none of us would be in this room without a team, and my team is amazing. They worked hard, I know you’re watching, I love you all so much."

Bailey is the third recipient of a James Beard award in Savannah. In 1995, Elizabeth Terry, former owner and chef at Elizabeth's on 37th, was recognized as the best chef in the southeast. Terry had been previously nominated for the award in 1992, 1993 and 1994, and would go on to garner attention from the James Beard Foundation in 1997 with a nomination for her book, "Savannah Seasons: Food and Stories From Elizabeth on 37th." Seema Wilkes was also honored with a Beard award in 2000 while Back in the Day Bakery's Cheryl and Griffith Day were nominated as Outstanding Bakers in 2015.

Bailey was competing against other Georgia-base chefs in her category such as Brian So of Spring in Marietta, Ryan Smith of Staplehouse in Atlanta and Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani in Decatur and Botiwalla in Atlanta.

Also nominated alongside Bailey as best chef in the southeast was former Savannahian Bryan Furman with B's Cracklin BBQ. Now based in Atlanta, Furman and his wife, Nikki, opened the original B’s Cracklin’ BBQ on Coffee Bluff Road in 2014, which quickly gained a following after it was named one of the top 50 barbecue spots in the South by Southern Living magazine. In June 2015, the location burned to the ground after a refrigerator malfunctioned, but following a huge outpouring of community support, the Furmans opened a new location four months later on White Bluff Road. His Atlanta location recently suffered the same fate as his Savannah location, burning down in March of this year.

Giving Kitchen, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to food service workers, was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year award for supporting Georgia food workers in times of crisis. In Savannah, the organization offered financial assistance for workers of the Olde Pink House following the Dec. 27 fire at the famed establishment. "Help food service workers in crisis," Jen Hidinger-Kendrick, co-founder and spokesperson for Giving Kitchen, said when accepting the award. "Those six words, a directive from the lips of my late husband Ryan Hidinger, will always be at the heart of Giving Kitchen."