Chef Mashama Bailey won the 2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

Mashama Bailey is the Best Chef in the Southeast

The ICE alum and executive chef of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, won her first James Beard Award.

Mashama Bailey (Culinary, ’01) added a James Beard Award to her ongoing accolades at The Grey and The Grey Market — and wished her dishwasher a happy birthday in her acceptance speech.

Chef Mashama's menu showcasing Savannah's food culture, served in a refurbished bus station and documented on season 6 of Netflix's "Chef's Table," continued to be celebrated at the James Beard Awards on Monday night. Named among TIME's World’s Greatest Places 2018, The Grey has racked up a roster of food and travel accolades since its debut in 2014.

“I am very, very honored to be in this position," Mashama said on stage, before dedicating the award to her parents. "I have an unbelievably gracious and wonderful business partner, John O. Morisano; he's a visionary and my strength and my backbone, and without him I wouldn't be here and he is amazing. Thank you, John O., for believing in me and trusting in our vision and believing in The Grey restaurant."

After thanking her mentors, fellow nominees and the foundation, and confessing her "most influential cuisine" was Chinese takeout in New York, Mashama added, "None of us would be in this room without a team, none of us, and my team is amazing. They worked hard, I know you're watching, I love you so very much."

The annual ceremony continued to champion equity, mentorship and sustainability, while touching on self care, storytelling and an ongoing sense of community in the food industry.

“Everything we do is a support of a better food world, one that is delicious — yes, without question — but one that is diverse, equitable and sustainable for all,” said James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach.

Stars such as Ayesha Curry and Zooey Deschanel joined host Jesse Tyler Ferguson and ICE alum Gail Simmons (Culinary, '99) to present awards honoring hospitality, design, leadership, regionality and restaurateurs. The Humanitarian of the Year honoree, Giving Kitchen, announced free suicide prevention training for every restaurant in America, and Grubhub contributed $1 million to support the foundation's initiatives for women.

"One of our priority areas of change is promoting balance in this industry," Clare said. "Women make up more than half of culinary school graduates, so it's about time they achieved parity in terms of wages, leadership, ownership. We have a number of programs that support women throughout their careers."

One of our own women alumni, Esther Choi (Culinary, '11), prepared an authentic Korean dish from her restaurant, mŏkbar, for the ceremony, demonstrating the recipe during the red carpet broadcast on Twitter. Food fans can catch "Stories from the 2019 James Beard Awards" on ABC on Sunday, May 19.

Meet Mashama in a 2020 virtual event recording below:

Read more about James Beard Award-winning alumni, and pursue your future in food in one of ICE's career programs.

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