Baltimore’s Clavel came up short in taking home a prized James Beard Award on the culinary world’s biggest night, but Easton’s Harley Peet won best regional chef.

Restaurateurs and chefs gathered in Chicago Monday to celebrate what’s considered the most prestigious accolades in food. The Maryland finalists for outstanding bar — Clavel Mezcaleria — and best chef: mid-Atlantic — Tony Conte of Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana in Darnestown and Peet of Bas Rouge in Easton — vied against eateries from across the coast and country for the high honors.

Peet thanked his colleagues and parents on the stage, adding that he was raised to go through life trying to help others.

“Food is an absolute vehicle to spark a memory, to spark an amazing thing in somebody’s life, and that’s why we do it” said Peet, who beat out Conte, his fellow Marylander in the category. “Food is our palette. We’re all artists in a different way. So this is our way to convey love, happiness, equality, to the general public, to anybody, to anyone who walks here, anywhere. Food is way to the soul, food is way to the heart.”

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Peet said in April that his being named a James Beard finalist was a “testament to our team’s dedication and passion,” specifically making note of the “four other chefs in the category who I know to be incredibly talented.”

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema previously called Bas Rouge a “crown jewel” where “truly all the senses are rewarded” in a 2022 trip to the Eastern Shore. Opened in 2016 by the Bluepoint Hospitality Group, the fine-dining experience served on the forefront of a sleepy Maryland town’s rise to “culinary hotbed,” according to Eater DC.

In the outstanding bar category, Clavel lost to Jewel of the South, a modern tavern in New Orleans.

“It’s an honor to be acknowledged nationally as one of the 5 bars who made it to the finals. It is an honor to represent Baltimore,” Clavel co-owner Lane Harlan said in a text message. “It is a privilege to be able to work as hard as we do. We will be back.”

Clavel’s shot at the finals this year was not only a mark of excellence for the Remington eatery but the broader city, said chef Carlos Raba after the finalists were announced in April.

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Raba opened the restaurant with mezcal connoisseur Harlan in the summer of 2015. Since then, the spot has garnered features in The New York Times, The Food Network and Thrillist for its “inventive cocktail menu” and “cozy, relaxed space.”

Only one Baltimore restaurateur has won the best chef award, when Spike Gjerde walked away with the accolade in 2015 for a farm-to-table restaurant known as the Woodberry Kitchen. But his winning horse has since been downsized and remodeled as the Woodberry Tavern.

Maryland already had a good showing heading into Monday night’s awards, with one win under its belt. Excellence in food media was honored at the prestigious awards on Saturday, where Baltimore writer D. Watkins won the beverage category for a Salon magazine article describing the triumphs and challenges of navigating the city’s bar scene sober. The article goes into detail about the booming market for nonalcoholic drinks and ventures into Watkins’ own experience with sobriety. The James Beard Awards praised his “distinctive style” and “innovative approach … on alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages.”

Despite ongoing challenges within the industry, vice president of awards Dawn Padmore sees the competition as a boost for businesses. Nearly all restaurants say they are struggling with higher labor and food costs in 2024, according to a National Restaurant Association report.

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The awards remind the country of the “exceptional talent and dynamism” within the culinary industry, said Tanya Holland, chair of the James Beard Awards Committee, in a statement.

“It gives me hope for the future of independent restaurants,” she said.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Tom Sietsema’s surname.