In another moment of Filipino F&B excellence, three Filipino-American chefs from California and Chicago were among those shortlisted as semifinalists at the 2024 James Beard Awards.

Executive chef Tara Monsod of San Diego’s Animae and Lord Maynard Llera of Kuya Lord in Los Angeles were both recognized under the “Best Chef: California” category, while Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant’s Joseph Fontelera was nominated for “Best Chef: Great Lakes.”

“What a moment,” says the Instagram collaboration post between Filipino-American executive chef Monsod and the San Diego Asian American restaurant Animae.


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Monsod first joined the modern Asian-American restaurant at the end of 2020 where she exhibited her deft skills that reflect her Filipino American heritage through “dishes like lumpia, scallop crudo with calamansi (Filipino lime) and short rib kare kare, made with peanut oil and bagoong (shrimp paste),” states their official website.

“I just want to make food that people can gather around,” she says.

Monsod has also been active in fostering stronger relationships within the community. In October 2023, she took part in a cause-driven ‘kamayan’ dinner for the Karangalan Scholarship alongside other Filipino chefs such as White Rice’s Philip Esteban, Lasita’s Nico de Leon, and The Park’s Finest’s Johneric Concordia.

Meanwhile, Llera from Quezon Province was also thrilled by his nomination.We feel so proud that our history, our story, our food and culture is being shared through the nation’s most prestigious culinary honors,” they write on Instagram. “It’s a surreal recognition beyond imagination.”


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After migrating to the US in 2004 to study at the Culinary Institute of America, Llera slowly immersed himself in foodservice but it wasn’t until 2019 when he “started playing around with his own take on Filipino cuisine.”

Speaking to F&B Report, Llera said “I started doing small pop-ups in breweries and wine bars in different cities in LA, doing my Filipino street food concept. While doing that, I was looking for the perfect spot for my restaurant, until the pandemic hit in 2020.”

Like any creative with plenty of time on their hands during the tumultuous period, Llera converted his garage into a kitchen to do research and development and eventually earned glowing reviews from family and friends. From there, he opened his 21-seat restaurant on Melrose Avenue to the delight of many fans.

“I cook with authentic Filipino flavors, but I use classical training and techniques to further enhance and reinvent traditional FIlipino dishes.”

Elsewhere, Joe Fontelera of Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant in Chicago was also shortlisted as a semifinalist under the “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category.

Boonie’s opened in Lincoln Square in early 2023 and has been a loved destination for Filipino classics like lumpiang shanghai, sizzling sisig, bistek, and kare-kare.

Aaron Verzosa, co-owner and chef of Seattle restaurant Archipelago, also made it to this year’s list as one of the “Outstanding Chef” nominees. Other notable semifinalists include Melissa Miranda of Musang and Sheldon Simeon of Tiffany’s for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific, Chris Mauricio of Harana Market (Best Chef: New York State), Orlando’s Kaya for Best New Restaurant, and Kimmie and Josh McIntosh of Milkfish Bakeshop (Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker).


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Last year, three Filipinos won at the James Beard Awards: Erwan Heussaff, Chicago’s Kasama by Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, and Margarita Lorenzana-Manzke. This year’s finalists will be revealed in April.