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Peruvian chef, Venezuelan bakers in Miami named finalists for top national food awards

A Peruvian chef and two Venezuelan bakers were named nominees in the 2024 James Beard Awards.

Created in 1990, the awards aim to recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where everyone can thrive.

Chef Valerie Chang, whose Midtown restaurant Maty’s was just named one of the best restaurants in the U.S. by Food & Wine, was one of five finalists in the Best Chef: South category, which includes nominees from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.

Maty’s, which pays tribute to Chang’s grandmother and the elegance of Peruvian home cooking, was also named one of the best new restaurants in 2023 by Bon Appétit and Esquire. Chang is also well-known for the Peruvian-Japanese fusion spot Itamae, at which she worked with her brother Nando and father Fernando. Itamae closed in the summer of 2023 and was converted into a fast-casual sushi concept, B-Side by Itamae, but the Changs were named among the best chefs of 2023 by Food & Wine.

He started out making Big Macs. Now this Miami Beach chef is among the best in the U.S.

Chef Valerie Chang, here with her brother Nando and father Fernando, is the force behind Maty’s. She is a 2024 nominee in the Best Chef: South category for the 2024 James Beard Awards.
Chef Valerie Chang, here with her brother Nando and father Fernando, is the force behind Maty’s. She is a 2024 nominee in the Best Chef: South category for the 2024 James Beard Awards.

Father-and-son team Manuel and Jesús Brazón of Caracas Bakery, who fled Venezuela in 2008, were nominees in the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker category, which recognizes a pastry chef or baker who makes desserts, pastries, or breads.

Jesús Brazón, who taught himself to bake watching YouTube videos, told the Miami Herald in March that being nominated for the award was a little surprising.

“It’s actually a little unreal to be nominated,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about this five years ago. And so many people have been working their way up from the bottom of a bakery who haven’t had the chance to do their own thing like I did.”

Brazón and his father opened the first Caracas Bakery in Doral in 2020 as a takeout-only spot, and the lines for fresh bread and pastries grew immediately. Last year, they opened a full-service bakery in Miami’s MiMo neighborhood.

Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, congratulated all the nominees and honorees in a statement.

“Your vision, and continued dedication to excellence — both on and beyond the plate — make you true leaders of American culinary. Thank you for all you are doing to set a better standard for our industry and broader food system.”

The winners will be announced at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 10 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

James Beard Award nominees

Caracas Bakery: 7283 Biscayne Blvd., Miami (Doral takeout location at 7884 NW 52nd St.); www.caracasbakery.com

Maty’s: 3255 NE First Ave., Miami; www.matysmiami.com