Baltimore writer D. Watkins wins a James Beard Media Award – The Baltimore Banner

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Baltimore writer D. Watkins won a 2024 James Beard Media Award on Saturday for a Salon article on navigating the restaurant scene sober.

Watkins won the beverage category of the culinary industry’s premier journalism, book and broadcast honors for “distinctive style, thorough knowledge, plainspoken prose, and innovative approach in a single article on alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages,” according to a release from the James Beard Foundation.

Watkins dedicated the piece, titled “Navigating the new sober boom, where a person’s sobriety is as unique as their fingerprint,” to his late cousin Maja Griffin, who died in September. Watkins’ story ran in December.

“This award is not about me but about the power of Baltimore culture — because without the bars and restaurants of the city, most importantly all that I learned about the art of beverage creation from my cousin Maja, none of this would be possible,” Watkins wrote in a text message. “Rest in heaven, Maj, and to the food world, Baltimore has something to say.”


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The East-Baltimore born Watkins, who is an editor-at-large for Salon, is also a professor and author of the 2022 book “Black Boy Smile.” The New York Times bestselling writer also was part of the writing team for HBO’s “We Own This City.”

Two Maryland chefs and one Baltimore restaurant are still in contention for the national contest, which honors excellence in the culinary industry.

The Restaurant and Chef Awards will be announced Monday night at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Clavel Mezcaleria will be considered for Outstanding Bar, while Harley Peet of Bas Rouge in Easton and Tony Conte of Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana in Darnestown will have a chance at winning the foundation’s title of Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.

John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years.

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