FOOD

Chapman's Chef BJ Lieberman is a James Beard Award Semifinalist

The James Beard Foundation announced its 2023 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists this week; finalists will be named March 29.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Restaurateurs BJ Lieberman and his wife, Bronwyn Haines, at Ginger Rabbit Jazz Lounge. Chef Lieberman was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for his work at Chapman's Eat Market.

Chapman’s Eat Market chef and co-owner BJ Lieberman is among the 2023 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists named today by the James Beard Foundation. The James Beard Awards are the restaurant industry equivalent to the Oscars, with restaurant and chef semifinalists recognized across 23 categories. Originally from Northern Virginia, Lieberman is a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category. 

“I'm just happy that James Beard is recognizing Columbus,” Lieberman said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I'm very excited to represent us, and I'm just really proud of our team. This is definitely not an individual nomination. Our team worked really hard and got us to where we are, and it's really great to get recognition sometimes.” 

Lieberman and his wife, Bronwyn Haines, moved to Columbus in September 2019 from Washington D.C., where Lieberman was head chef at acclaimed restaurants Rose’s Luxury and Little Pearl. The couple opened Chapman’s, their first restaurant, in August 2020 in German Village, and it was named one of Columbus Monthly’s 10 Best Restaurants in November 2022. The couple have since followed up Chapman's with Ginger Rabbit Jazz Lounge, which made its debut last April, and are planning to open a third venture this year, a live-fire restaurant called Hiraeth in the Short North. 

The chef’s nomination is a rarity for Columbus, which competes in the same Great Lakes region as Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati and other cities in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. In 2020, two members of the Columbus food industry were named James Beard semifinalists: James Anderson, owner of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, was in contention for Best Chef: Great Lakes, and Pistacia Vera’s Spencer Budros for Outstanding Baker. Prior to that, you have to go back to 2012 for local chef nominations, when the Refectory's Richard Blondin and Kent Rigsby of the since closed Rigsby’s Kitchen were both semifinalists for Best Chef: Great Lakes.  

Central Ohio’s most recent James Beard Award winner was forager and social media star Alexis Nikole Nelson, who won in the Social Media Account category for her educational and entertaining foraging content. 

Restaurant and chef award finalists will be announced Wednesday, March 29, and winners will be celebrated at a ceremony on Monday, June 5, in Chicago. If Lieberman makes the short list of finalists, he likely won’t be traveling alone to the James Beard ceremony. 

Today, when Lieberman found out that he was a James Beard semifinalist via text, he was hosting out-of-town guests, namely his former boss at Rose’s Luxury, Aaron Silverman, himself a James Beard Award winner in 2016 for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. “Aaron immediately was like, ‘If you get on the short list, I'm coming to Chicago with you,’ ” Lieberman said.  

In the meantime, how does Lieberman plan to celebrate? By taking his out-of-town guests out to dinner and a show—Chapman's followed by Ginger Rabbit.  

See the full list of James Beard's 2023 restaurant and chef semifinalists here.