Tennessee has experienced a culinary boom and acclaimed James Beard Foundation, which honors culinary excellence in the U.S., has taken notice. Book a reservation at these restaurants headed up by award-winning and nominated chefs. Their culinary creations will have you wanting second helpings.
Bastion Chef Josh Habiger is a 2023 James Beard Award finalist in the Southeast category, with winners announced on June 5. At Bastion, Habiger and his team serve up a set, six-course dinner with a wide variety of ingredients and flavors. The menu is always evolving so every visit is a new experience. Reservations are required and are considered tickets (you pre-pay when you reserve your table).
Celebrated chef Maneet Chauhan is famous for her work on Food Network's "Chopped" as well as a James Beard Award winner. You'll want to add her Nashville restaurants, Chauhan Ale & Masala House, The Mockingbird and Tansuo to your must-dine list for incredible and creative dishes. Each restaurant has its own signature decor in addition to themed cocktails.
For fine Italian dining, try Yolan in downtown Nashville. James Beard Award-winning and Michelin-starred Chef Tony Mantuano brings exceptional Italian cuisine to the table. Book one of the tasting experiences with set menus or a standard reservation for the a la carte menu which includes 2023 James Beard semifinalist pastry chef Noelle Marchetti's dishes.
Chef Julio Hernandez was a 2023 James Beard Awards semifinalist and owns Maiz de la Vida, which began as a food truck and now is becoming a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Gulch spring 2023. Find the taco truck in East Nashville for delicious tacos, burros, quesadillas and quesabirrias - all made with dried Heirloom corn from Mexico. Complete your meal with sides like rice, beans and elote, and don't forget to end it with churros with extra caramel.
World-renowned Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has opened and operated fine dining establishments around the world. Now, the award-winning chef makes his debut in the South at The Hermitage Hotel. Have an epicurean adventure at Drusie & Darr, featuring a globally inspired menu full of Tennessee produce and seasonal selections along with plant-based meals, oven fired pizzas and curated cocktails.
James Beard Restaurants & Chefs in Memphis
Phillip Ashley Chocolates, led by Chef Phillip Ashley Rix is an award-winning chocolatier and heralded by Forbes as "the real life Willy Wonka of chocolate." His artistic chocolates have been featured in British Vogue, praised by Martha Stewart and even served at the EMMYs, GRAMMYs & the Academy Awards. Order a box yourself (they ship internationally, too) to taste the Memphis indulgence.
Hog & Hominy, led by Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, was named one of the top new restaurants by GQ Magazine, Southern Living, and Bon Appetit as well as a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation. The foundation also named the chefs semi-finalists for the Best Chef: Southeast award for three consecutive years during 2012-2014, and a finalist for the award in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Make your reservation to dine at Hog & Hominy for lunch or dinner to sample an array of their seasonal dishes including salads, wood-fired pizzas and shareables as well as an extensive list of cocktails and spirits.
Led by James Beard Award-nominated Chef Kelly English, Restaurant Iris features Creole-French cuisine served in an elegant setting full of dark, cozy dining spaces. Come for lunch, Sunday jazz brunch or dinner for seasonal dishes and craft cocktails. The dinner menu features a raw bar including caviar service and seafood tower as well as seared foie gras, New York strip, grilled Scottish salmon and sides such as braised collard greens, candied yam and white corn grits and parmesan risotto.
James Beard Chefs & Restaurants in Chattanooga and Knoxville
St. John's Restaurant has seen multiple nominations from the James Beard Foundation. The restaurant is now under Executive Chef Patrick Sawyer and has continued being praised, most recently by Garden & Gun. Make a reservation to enjoy Chef's specials, shareables and main courses that are seasonally led such as the Picket's Ranch trout with roasted fingerling potatoes, local Benton's bacon, lions mane mushrooms, charred spring onion and caper relish or the Mishima Reserve wagyu Coulotte steak with French onion rice, broccoli, oyster mushrooms, grana padano tuile and a demi-glace.
Easy Bistro and Bar is owned and operated by James Beard Award-nominated Chef Erik Niel who serves French classics with a southern flair. Taste some of the freshest seafood from the raw bar featuring an array of oysters, caviar, yellowfin and gulf shrimp as well as crab claws and lobster. Pastas, chicken, pork tenderloin and steaks also make up the menu. Same room for dessert like white corn cream puffs with caramel filling, chocolate pudding with hazelnut nougatime and cocoa nibs, chocolate flight and mango sorbet.
James Beard Award winner Chef Joseph Lenn was the chef at The Barn at Blackberry Farm before coming to Knoxville to start his own venture, J.C. Holdway. Here, you'll find laid back sophistication with snack plates like scallion hushpuppies and barbecue onion aioli and Duroc pork ribs with barbecue sauce and benne seeds, chicken liver pate and potato & smoked trout salad. All pastas are handmade in-house and include snap pea cappelletti, pappardelle, and gramigna. Grilled prime ribeye, roasted chicken, grilled trout and pork chops are also featured.
More Award-Winning Restaurants & Chefs in Tennessee
Follow the smell of hickory to Helen's Bar-B-Q, an off-the-beaten path restaurant in Brownsville, Tennessee where Helen Turner provides succulent barbecue for travelers and locals alike. Turner is one of the few female pit masters in the U.S. and has been awarded the Southern Foodways Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award and has been praised in local and national publications.
Chef Kenyatta Ashford is part of the expanding food scene in Chattanooga. he leads Neutral Ground, a modern New Orleans style Po-Boy and Yakamein restaurant. Chef-driven specials change seasonally, but you can always get a po-boy or smoked brisket meatball yakamein, all made in-house. Ashford was recently awarded the Jean-Louis Palladin Professional Work/Study Grant by the James Beard Foundation where he studied cuisines of the African American diaspora and West Africa. He has been featured in Travel Noire and The New York Times.
Still hungry? Check out more Tennessee restaurants:
Made in Tennessee Bucket List Barbecue Spots
Come Dine at Tennessee’s Table
Must-Visit Food Stops in Tennessee
Your Guide to Vegan Stops in Tennessee