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Fil-Am Tom Cunanan is Named ‘Best Chef’ at James Beard Awards 2019

Chef Tom receives the prestigious ‘Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic’ title for his modern Filipino restaurant, Bad Saint, found in Columbia Heights, Washington DC.

James Beard Awards is an annual event that recognizes culinary professionals in the US. It is often called the “Oscars” of the food world. Half Filipino, chef Tom is one of the lucky few recognized this year.

A James Beard Awards medal, photo courtesy of James Beard Foundation.

The three-time Best Chef nominee finally achieves victory over those vying for the same title.

He opened his restaurant four years ago. The twenty-seater place that has since served up and acquainted the world with Filipino specialties like lechon, kinilaw, crab in crab fat, laing, adobong pusit, and kare kare, to name a few. It is a restaurant that pays homage to chef Tom’s Pampango roots.

Bad Saint’s kare kare with bone marrow, oxtail, pickled okra, and ginamos. Photo courtesy of Leandro Lagera.

Born in Olangapo City, Philippines, chef Tom moved to America when he was just three years old. He earned his way up the culinary ladder, working first at DC kitchens Vidalia and Ardeo Bardeo before finally opening his restaurant in 2015. He calls his mother his main inspiration in the kitchen.

In 2016, Bad Saint also bagged the “Best New Restaurant” in America title from magazine Bon Appetit.

Bad Saint restaurant facade, photo courtesy of Popville.

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