Culture, Food & Wine // 5 min Read

Savannah Chef Wins James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Jul 11, 2022

The 2022 James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards recipients were announced last month—and one outstanding winner has ties to the Bluff.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation recognizes “exceptional talents and achievements” of the culinary industry who also have “demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”

After a two-year hiatus, this year’s in-person event brought together presenters and awardees for an evening full of gratitude as well as stories of hardships and triumph throughout their career and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — inspiring the theme for this year’s event, “Gather for Good.”

The South was well represented in the list of winners—with winners in Asheville, NC, Birmingham, AL, and Durham, NC—but it was Savannah’s very own Mashama Bailey, executive chef and partner at The Grey, who took this year’s award for Outstanding Chef.

2022 Oustanding Chef Mashama Bailey. Photo: Clay Williams

A New York City girl turned award-winning Southern chef, Chef Mashama Bailey has made a name for herself in the fine-dining world, firmly etching a permanent spot for Savannah on the national culinary map.

Born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, Bailey’s childhood was often spent in Savannah and Waynesboro, GA—where Bailey learned to cook at the hands of the women in her family including her mother, grandmothers, and aunts. After a more formal education at The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), extensive travels, and a dozen years cooking throughout New York City, Bailey found her way back to Savannah and The Grey—where she acts as executive chef and partner. Bringing her personal take on Port City Southern food to a city from her youth, Chef Bailey creates dishes that are deep, layered, and soulful in flavor.

Located in historic downtown Savannah, The Grey is located inside a restored 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal (with old terminal numbers still above the doorways) and offers visitors an elevated food, wine, and service experience in an unmatched ambiance.

(Fun fact: when she was hired to work at The Grey in 2014, Bailey had never worked professionally in the South.)

But before this NYC girl-turned-Southern chef found herself with a couple of James Beard awards (she also previously won a James Beard Award in 2019 for Best Chef in the Southeast).

Chef Mashama Bailey serves up Harissa Coated Squid at 2017 Music to Your Mouth.

Bailey demonstrated her culinary talents at the Bluff as a featured chef at 2017's Music to Your Mouth—one of Palmetto Bluff’s signature events that paid homage to the unique and diverse food, people, and culture of the South.

The next time you’re visiting Palmetto Bluff, we suggest taking a short drive to Savannah to check out Bailey and her award-winning cuisine at The Grey located at 109 MLK Blvd. in historic downtown Savannah.

Also among the 2022 winners from the South:

Best Chef: South. Adam Evans, Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, AL. Another Bluff favorite, Chef Adam was a featured chef at the Bourbon & Birds dinner at Field + Fire in 2020 and he’s also featured in the 2020 Spring/Summer issue of the Bluff magazine.

Read more in Life on the Half Shell. We like to think we know a good thing when we see taste it.