Animae Restaurant Chef Tara Monsod Is San Diego's First Ever James Beard Award Finalist

April 3, 2024

The James Beard Foundation today announced its Restaurant and Chef Award finalists for the 32nd annual James Beard Foundation Awards, and Animae's Tara Monsod is San Diego's first-ever chef to make the coveted list.

The James Beard Foundation today announced its 2024 finalists, and Chef Tara Monsod of Animae restaurant in downtown San Diego is named as a finalist in the Best Chef, California category. Monsod is joined by other California chefs Buu “Billy” Ngo of Kru in Sacramento, Geoff Davis of Burdell in Oakland, Lord Maynard Llera of Kuya Lord in Los Angeles and Rogelio Garcia of Auro in Calistoga for the title, which will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago on June 10.

Monsod previously cooked in the kitchens at such San Diego restaurants as Herringbone, Tender Greens, and Juniper and Ivy, before taking on her first Executive Chef role at Animae following several short-lived chef tenures at celebrity chef Brian Malarkey's Asian-inspired, upscale steakhouse concept. During her three year tenure at Animae, Monsod has become known for introducing many Filipino dishes on the menu. Monsod will also be leading the kitchen at Malarkey's incoming French-inspired steakhouse Le Coq, which is expected to open in La Jolla this spring. 

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards is considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognizing exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as "a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive." The James Beard Awards further the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.

Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes. No San Diego chef has ever won a James Beard Award, although recently, several have made the semifinalist list, including Jon Bautista (2023), Anthony Wells (2022), and Claudette Zepeda (2019). Chef Tara Monsod is the first San Diego chef to ever make it to the finals for the illustrious award. 

The full list of 2024 Restaurant and Chef Awards finalists can be found on the James Beard Foundation website. Winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 10, 2024, in Chicago, IL.

For more information about the James Beard Foundation Awards, visit