Chef Rene Andrade of Phoenix restaurant Bacanora wins James Beard Award | Phoenix New Times

Phoenix chef Rene Andrade wins James Beard Award

Chef Rene Andrade accepted his award with "puro amor" at Monday night's ceremony.
Grill master Rene Andrade of Bacanora is 2024's Best Chef Southwest.
Grill master Rene Andrade of Bacanora is 2024's Best Chef Southwest. JM Photo
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On Monday night at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, one of the food world's most anticipated events took place. After months of voting, semifinals and finals, the James Beard Foundation named its 2024 award winners.

"The Restaurant and Chef Awards celebrate culinary excellence across a range of experiences, from fine-dining establishments to casual gems, and emerging talents to established leaders," the description of the event read.

The sold-out ceremony was co-hosted by Nyesha Arrington, Richard Blais, Amanda Freitag and Marcus Samuelsson and was live-streamed online.

This year, 12 Phoenix chefs were named as semifinalists, with two becoming finalist nominees. On Monday night, skipping a tuxedo for a bomber jacket and his signature trucker hat, chef Rene Andrade accepted his James Beard Award. The local chef was named the Best Chef - Southwest.

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Prior to opening his own restaurants, chef Rene Andrade led the kitchen at Ghost Ranch. He also honed his culinary skills at Elements, The House Brasserie and Tempe Public Market Cafe.
Chris Malloy

This is the second time he's been nominated for this specific award, following a triple-nomination last year shared with fellow chefs Derek Christensen and Roberto Centeno. Andrade was one of two Arizona chefs in the running this year, alongside chef Crystal Kass, nominated in the category of Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker for her exceptional pastry work at Valentine.

In 2021, Andrade opened Bacanora on the art-filled downtown stretch of Grand Avenue. The tiny restaurant is always packed with folks eager to try Andrade's recipes, described on the restaurant's website as "wood-fired Sonoran comfort." In 2022, the eatery was nominated as a Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Awards.

In December 2023, Andrade opened his second restaurant, Huarachis. The downtown Phoenix spot is a more casual walk-in version of the reservation-based Bacanora.

Prior to opening his own restaurants, Andrade led the kitchens at Ghost Ranch and the former Tempe Public Market Cafe. He also previously worked at Elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain and The House Brasserie.

The chef is originally from Nogales, Sonora and brings his heritage into his cooking. Almost everything at his restaurants get a kiss of fire before it hits the table. In his acceptance speech at the awards, Andrade thanked his mom and grandmother for their love and inspiration.

"(As a) little kid from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, I had this dream of being my grandma," Andrade said. "I just wanted to be like her, she's the representation of magic to me."

He recalled memories of his grandmother cooking for uncles and cousins, and delivered a section of his speech in Spanish.

"Quiero ser ella," he said. "Quiero ser magia."

Many that have visited Andrade's restaurant would agree that he's found that magic in a little spot on Grand Avenue.

At Bacanora, the small menu features just four entrees, one starter and a few sides. But that's because most of the menu is made up of an exciting rotation of specials, including the ever-popular giant bone-in ribeye.

Reservations at Bacanora remain one of the hottest tickets in town, and they become available online at the first of the month. If Phoenix epicureans haven’t eaten at Bacanora, it’s not because they haven’t heard of it. But more likely, because they haven’t been able to get in. And that's not likely to change any time soon. At the awards, Andrade also teased another restaurant that he has in the works.

"I'm here. We're here," he said. "Puro amor."


1301 Grand Ave. #1
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