Comfort Kitchen and Talulla Are 2024 James Beard Award Nominees

Not a ton of Boston-area representation on this year's list, but we're rooting for these two.

An exterior of a restaurant has the name, Comfort Kitchen, painted in green on the building, and a small green sign says the same.

Comfort Kitchen. / Photo by Stefanie Belnavis/The Diahann Project

James Beard Foundation awards season marches on: Today, the organization followed up January’s list of 2024 semifinalists for restaurant and chef awards with the whittled-down nominee list (essentially finalists, despite the confusing nomenclature). Greater Boston’s only got a couple potential 2024 winners remaining on the list—although all are winners in our hearts—and there are a few other folks included from our neighbors in other parts of New England. More on them below, but first, some background.

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The awards—sometimes referred to as “the Oscars of the food world”—span 22 categories this year, recognizing emerging and established culinary talent in various positions within the food, beverage, and hospitality realm in the United States. (There are also some special categories that get announced early, including leadership and lifetime achievement awards, and media awards, which are announced on a separate timeline.) The restaurant and chef awards process spans months each year, including a public open call for recommendations and several rounds of consideration by a voting body that includes Beard Foundation subcommittee members and appointed judges throughout the U.S. Winners will be announced at a June 10 gala in Chicago.

Boston-Area Nominees for 2024

When the 2024 semifinalists were announced in January, 10 Greater Boston chefs and restaurants made the cut; on today’s pared-down nominees list, only two remain, and we’re heartily rooting for both:

Overhead view of two crispy patties on a white sauce with a side salad.

Comfort Kitchen’s potato curry cakes. / Photo by Rita Ferreira/Comfort Kitchen

Comfort Kitchen

Best New Restaurant nominee

We said it in January and we’ll say it again: this one feels like a no-brainer. The Dorchester gem, a hotly anticipated opening leading up to its early 2023 debut, has been collecting local and national accolades nonstop. (We gave it a Best New Restaurant award of our own last year, and our critic MC Slim JB gave it three stars out of four—”generally excellent”—in a May 2023 review.) The food is great, from the light café fare during the day to the reservations-required, destination-worthy dinner menu at night, a global array of flavors and ingredients of the African diaspora. But the James Beard Foundation isn’t just looking for excellent food; a requirement of this category is that the winner contributes something positive to its broader community. Indeed, Comfort Kitchen does just that. Its restoration of a historical comfort station that had been closed since the 1970s is helping to revitalize the neighborhood, and the menu showcases an underrepresented cuisine in Boston.

611 Columbia Rd., Dorchester, Boston, 617-329-6910,

Overhead view of a bowl of thick pink soup with a swirl of olive oil and herbs.

Strawberry gazpacho at Talulla. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Conor Dennehy, Talulla

Best Chef: Northeast nominee

Conor Dennehy, chef and co-owner of Cambridge’s Talulla, is the sole Massachusetts nominee in the Northeast regional Best Chef category this year, an award given to “chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leaderships abilities and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture … while contributing positively to their broader community.” When Dennehy and his wife Danielle Ayer opened the restaurant six years ago, the intention was to share “stories about the farmers and winemakers we’ve met on our travels, and how their food and drink have inspired our own creations,” as Ayer described it at the time. Sure enough, Dennehy weaves stories of seasonal, artisanal food and drink through his elegant tasting menus and à la carte offerings, amplifying well-sourced proteins with creative accompaniments. One might find, for example: hamachi tartare garnished with avocado, kumquat, radish, crispy garlic, and sesame; or lamb loin with lentils, turnip, yogurt, harissa, and black olive. The intimate restaurant, warmly hospitable, is perfectly built for special-occasion dining, especially if you go the tasting menu route, but you could just as easily enjoy an à la carte plate of, say, ravioli with honey, ricotta salata, and asparagus, plus a glass of wine, any night of the year.

377 Walden St., Cambridge, 617-714-5584,

New England Nominees Beyond Massachusetts

It’s a particularly good year for Portland, Maine—especially bakeries in Portland!—but people and restaurants in other parts of the region are still in the running for 2024 awards, too:

  • Chris Viaud, Greenleaf, Ansanm, and Pavilion, Milford, NH — Outstanding Restaurateur nominee
  • Renee Touponce, The Port of Call, Mystic, CT — Outstanding Chef nominee
  • ZU Bakery, Portland, ME — Outstanding Bakery nominee
  • Atsuko Fujimoto, Norimoto Bakery, Portland, ME — Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker nominee
  • Woodford Food & Beverage, Portland, ME — Outstanding Hospitality nominee
  • Barr Hill Cocktail Bar, Montpelier, VT — Outstanding Bar nominee
  • Cara Chigazola Tobin, Honey Road, Burlington, VT — Best Chef: Northeast nominee
  • Maria Meza, Dolores, Providence, RI — Best Chef: Northeast nominee
  • David Standridge, The Shipwright’s Daughter, Mystic, CT — Best Chef: Northeast nominee
  • Jake Stevens, Leeward, Portland, ME — Best Chef: Northeast nominee