James Beard Award finalists honored for their work, out of business, unsure if they’ll survive

It’s a bittersweet moment for this year’s James Beard Award finalists. Chefs can’t celebrate like they usually do. There’s no clinking of wine glasses with their team, or regulars offering congratulations in a busy dining room.

Instead of coming together for a ceremony to learn who became award finalists, the announcements were made via Twitter.

“I was really glad that they went forward with it. It helps bring more light onto what's happening with restaurants and bars,” says chef Lincoln Carson, a finalist in the Best Pastry Chef category. 

Lincoln permanently closed his restaurant, Bon Temps, last week due to financial challenges. He says that if half the seats in his restaurant were taken away, he wouldn't be able to make enough money to stay in business.

Chef Lincoln Carson decided to permanently close his restaurant, Bon Temps, last week. Photo credit: Sierra Prescott.

Just a mile from Bon Temps in LA’s Arts District sits Nightshade , which was named a finalist for Best New Restaurant.

Chef and owner Mei Lin temporarily closed her eatery during the shelter-at-home orders.

“We decided to do takeout for a week, and it just wasn't profitable,” she says. “We weren't making ends meet.”

Mei Lin in the kitchen of Nightshade, her first restaurant. Photo credit: Frank Wonho Lee.

She’s now trying to create new menu items that translate better to a takeout box. Even as restrictions loosen, Lin says she’ll continue to struggle.

“You can’t fully operate a restaurant with half a capacity,” she says. “It doesn’t equate, the numbers don’t match up. That’s the scariest thing about it.”

She applied for a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, but hasn’t heard back.