Palestinian chef Michael Rafidi wins James Beard Awards

A Palestinian chef in Washington, DC has won the top prize for his culinary achievements. [Getty]

A Palestinian chef based in Washington, DC has won the prize for outstanding chef in the James Beard Awards, considered the Oscars of food.

Michael Rafidi’s restaurant, Albi (my heart) opened in 2020 shortly before the widespread Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns. With his widely popular food, he was able to weather the storm, staying open through the lockdowns, earning a Michelin star in 2022 and becoming a James Beard semifinalist in 2022 and 2023.

Wearing a keffiyeh as he accepted the award in Chicago, he dedicated it “to Palestinians, and all the people out there, whether it’s here, Palestine, or all over the world,” according to Axios.

Rafidi, who grew up near Washington, DC, was inspired to cook by his grandparents, who immigrated to the US from Ramallah in the 1940s, according to a 2023 interview with the chef in The New Arab. He and his brothers spent time in the kitchen with their grandmother, and their grandfather owned restaurants in the area.

Albi’s menu, however, offers a modern twist on traditional Arab fare. This includes Maryland crab hummus, coal-fired mushroom hummus, and kebbeh naya made with yellowfish tuna and with smoked carrot. Along with the new creations, the restaurant also serves traditional dishes, such as fattoush, batata harra, mujadarra and lamb kebab.

In addition to Albi, Rafidi also owns Yellow, a café located in Georgetown which serves French pastries and coffee with Levantine ingredients, such as orange blossom, pistachios and cardamom.

The James Beard Foundation is a US-based non-profit organisation that celebrates American food culture and talent. Its annual awards are considered among the most prestigious in the food industry.

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