Salem's chef at Epilogue Kitchen semifinalist for James Beard Award – Statesman Journal

Jonathan Jones, chef and one of the owners of Epilogue Kitchen & Cocktails in downtown Salem, has been named a 2022 semifinalist for “Best Chef in the Northwest Region” by the James Beard Foundation.
The James Beard Foundation Awards, long considered the Oscars of the food world, “recognize exceptional talent and achievement” in culinary arts, hospitality, media and overall food systems nationwide, according to the website’s mission statement. Awards are based on nominations sent to the foundation, which are then considered by volunteer committees.
Restaurant and chef semifinalists were announced Feb. 23. The winners will be announced in May.
Among the other 20 chefs in the category, Jones is the only one from Salem and one of four from Oregon. The other Oregon chefs are all from Portland: Carlo Lamagna of Magna Kuisina, Vince Nguyen of Berlu and Thomas Pisha-Duffly of Oma’s Hideaway.
The cozy, colorful 50-seat restaurant at 130 High St. SE has a menu that Jones changes up often, offering crabcake benedict, meatball subs, breakfast cereal french toast, vegetarian biscuits and gravy, porkchops.
Jones said the news of his recognition took him by surprise.
“I got a ‘congratulations’ message from an account I follow on Instagram,” Jones said. “I didn’t even know what he was talking about.”
More about the food: Epilogue Kitchen & Cocktails is now open in downtown Salem. Here’s what you’ll be eating there.
He said when he officially heard of his award, he thought it wasn’t real. In the past few years, Jones said many folks have said and written things online to harass and “mess with him,” and he thought it was just happening again. He had to double-check the official awards site.
He said it’s an honor and that he’s still riding the high that this award has been.
” I’ve been dreaming of this day and you work so hard to get such an honor − it’s still surreal that I was even nominated,” Jones said. “This award has usually been to restaurants and folks in bigger markets like Seattle, Portland, L.A. and New York, but it’s great to be recognized in this smaller market.”
Jones opened Epilogue Kitchen with his partner Maura Ryan in 2019, after finding success with their pop-up Prologue Kitchen. Prior to the pop-up, he also worked at Word of Mouth, Taproot Lounge & Cafe and Santiam Wine & Bistro, as well as a hand at Cristom Vineyards, Salem Ale Works and Isaac’s Downtown.
Jones is one of the few Black restaurant owners in Salem and has been a leader in local activism efforts. Since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Johnson, there are portraits of the two in the front window of the restaurant, as well as the names of others killed in cases of police brutality written in white marker. A shelf at the front of the restaurant holds books by Black authors and others covering the topic of racism for patrons to borrow.
About more than food: Dismantling racism at the dinner table, Epilogue Kitchen offers books for takeout
Jones, a member of the local Black Lives Matter chapter, said his identity and the happenings in the world are integral to his beliefs and his business, including being anti-racist and anti-fascist.
He said folks have harassed him online, leaving reviews and comments in posts that have insulted Jones and his restaurant. In addition to his leadership on anti-racism efforts, his is also one of the few restaurants in Salem that requires diners provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
After the past couple of years of struggles, Jones said, this award is a reminder that he and the restaurant have great loyal customers, and he appreciates every patron who has dined inside.
“What I love most is being able to feed people,” Jones said.
Here are some other Northwest James Beard Awards semifinalists to try out:

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