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Pinoy chef Maynard Llera hailed as California's best chef at the 2024 James Beard Awards

By Melanie Uson Published Jun 11, 2024 9:35 pm

Chef Lord Maynard Llera, owner of L.A.-based Filipino restaurant Kuya Lord, has been recognized as California’s best chef at the 2024 James Beard Awards. 

In the winners’ list announced on Monday, June 10, Llera, who was born in Lucena City, Quezon, bested four other nominated chefs in California with his own take on Filipino cuisine. 

According to the award-giving body, a regional best chef is one who “set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions, while contributing positively to their broader community.” 

“It means a lot to me and the restaurant because it will give highlights to Filipino cuisine,” he previously told the Los Angeles Times following his nomination in April. 

In his Times feature, Llera shared he started his own culinary project after earning experience in some of Los Angeles’ most prestigious restaurants like Bestia. During the pandemic, he started his Filipino barbeque business in his home. He later on expanded to offering other Pinoy dishes such as kare-kare and pancit in large aluminum trays. 

In 2022, he established a Filipino restaurant dubbed Kuya Lord, a quick and casual dining located at Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California. 

Some of his offerings are his signature lechon, hiramasa collar, chopsuey, and tapsilog rice bowls, among others. 

“I want to thank my wife, who came here to America to be with me and to support me since day one,” Llera said during his acceptance speech. “She even quit her job and shared with me through this journey. Without her, Kuya Lord wouldn’t be here now. 

“This recognition is not just a testament to my individual efforts and hard work but a reflection of the support and encouragement and collaboration from many wonderful people in my life. I am fortunate enough to have mentors, friends and family all throughout this journey,” he added. 

Established in 1990, the award was named after James Beard, the late American chef who pioneered television cooking shows, mentored generations of chefs, wrote over 20 books on cooking, and whose efforts elevated American cuisine to its global status. 

It aims to “recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”