NJ’s 2024 James Beard Awards Semifinalists

by Peter Candia
Portuguese restaurants in nj

The James Beard Foundation is a non-profit focused on uplifting America’s best chefs, restaurants, bartenders and hospitality professionals. The foundation has long been considered one of the nation’s most notable organizations in the culinary space. The James Beard Foundation specifically celebrates restaurants that make a significant cultural contribution to their communities and put sustainability and creativity at the forefront.

Each year, The James Beard Foundation hands out awards across several categories. This year, one NJ restaurant and two NJ chefs have been nominated as semifinalists across two separate categories—Best New Restaurant and Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. Here are the NJ James Beard Foundation semifinalists

James Beard Foundation – Best New Restaurant 2024

Lita – Aberdeen Twp, NJ

For those who have dined at Chef David Viana’s Iberian-inspired restaurant, Lita, this nomination comes as no surprise. Along with Co-Owner Neilly Robinson, Beverage Director Ricardo Rodriguez, Director of Operations Danny McGill and Chef de Cuisine Brian Lopes, the Lita team hit the ground running when opening in the spring of last year and have yet to slow down. In that time, they have been named a top new restaurant in the US by Esquire as well as one of New Jersey’s Top 25 Restaurants by us at New Jersey Digest. 


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Viana’s concept revolves around the foods of his youth growing up as a first-generation Portuguese-American, elevated with a sophistication and poise that is downright addicting. Diners can’t get enough of the large-format paellas and wood-fired piri piri chickens. Amplified by Robinson’s eye for design and Rodriguez’s innovative cocktails, Lita has quickly become one of the best restaurants that New Jersey has to offer.

What’s more? A groundbreaking concept that sees 10 line cooks rotate between front and back of house. The revolutionary vision allows for better pay amongst cooks and servers, as well as a unique dining experience for guests. 

You can read more about Lita’s concept here

James Beard Foundation – Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic

Chef Dane DeMarco of Gass & Main – Haddonfield, NJ

Chef Dane DeMarco flexes their culinary chops at their Haddonfield BYO, Gass & Main. Seasonality and sustainability play a large part in forming Chef DeMarco’s menu, which sees the likes of fresh pasta with seasonal squash and playful plates of pork frites. 

DeMarco’s menu sings melodies made up of the finest produce and meat that the tri-state has to offer. This aptitude has awarded them well-deserved recognition from the James Beard Foundation. 


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Nur-E Gulshan Rahman of Korai Kitchen – Jersey City, NJ

“Eat with your hands” says the team behind Korai Kitchen—Chef Nur-E Gulshan Rahman’s ode to Bangladeshi flavors in the heart of Jersey City. Rahman’s culinary skill is on full display at Korai Kitchen, where Bangladeshi comfort food is the name of the game. Goat paya with hand-made paratha and traditional Bangladeshi chicken roasts are some of the daily specials you may find at Korai Kitchen. 

“Come on over to our house and let Mama Rahman feed you.” It’s this idea that has landed Rahman recognition from the New York Times, Eater, HBO and now, the James Beard Foundation. 

Korai Kitchen is take-out and delivery only. 


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About the Author/s

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Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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