Chef Cristina Martinez wins James Beard Foundation Award

Congratulations are in order to Chef Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico. Martinez was named Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” during the James Beard Foundation Awards.

The James Beard Awards‘ mission is to recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.

On Monday, June 13, 2022 after a 2-year hiatus, the James Beard Foundation Awards returned to celebrate the best in culinary across the country. During Martinez’s speech [in Spanish], she thanked all immigrant workers in the restaurant industry. She went on to recognize that many of the chefs who have received these awards, and many other restaurants, have some undocumented workers working for them. Martinez wanted to recognize that all these immigrants are the backbone that supports these chefs and the restaurant industry.

Martinez herself was an undocumented immigrant when she first started working in Philadelphia. And now she is an award winning chef being recognized all over the country for her culinary and mission-driven efforts.

Although fired for being an undocumented worker, Martinez continued her journey in Philadelphia and eventually began selling lamb barbacoa from a cart out of her apartment in South Philly. And one year later, along with her partner Ben Miller, they began opening up free-standing restaurants.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer Martinez said, “This means representing Philadelphia and my community. This is my home and its blood runs through my veins.” And Philly does love you.

I personally met Chef Martinez a couple of months ago and saw how humble she is and could sense her drive to do whatever it takes to support her community.

A post shared by Sarah Maiellano (@sarahmaiellano)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: