No Idaho chef had ever been this far. Now two are James Beard Award finalists

When Kris Komori found out Wednesday that he’d reached a level of recognition previously unachieved by an Idaho chef, he was grateful and excited.

Better yet? Komori, co-owner of Kin in Boise, was not alone.

A second Gem State chef was on the list of James Beard Awards finalists announced at a live ceremony at the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

Salvador Alamilla, co-owner of Amano in Caldwell, was also among the five nominees for “Best Chef: Mountain Region.”

Never before had an Idaho chef gotten this far at the distinguished awards, which are like the Oscars of the restaurant world.

Suddenly, there are two.

Kris Komori is chef and co-owner of Kin restaurant and Art Haus Bar in downtown Boise.
Kris Komori is chef and co-owner of Kin restaurant and Art Haus Bar in downtown Boise.

Komori, a five-time semifinalist, and Alamilla, a semifinalist the past two years, have taken the Treasure Valley’s dining scene to a new level.

“My hope,” Komori said by phone, “is that it’s raising a standard.”

Getting this far isn’t just a huge honor for the entire culinary teams at Kin, 999 W. Main St., and Amano, 702 Main St.

It almost feels like a community accomplishment for local diners, who have watched the restaurant scene grow and thrive.

“That’s the thing,” Komori said. “It feels good to be able to share it with everyone in the Boise restaurant world. All our customers. I know people root for us. It’s everybody!”

Previously known for his Boise restaurant State & Lemp, Komori has been a semifinalist more times than any Idaho chef. Crafting ambitious, creative prix-fixe menus, he opened Kin’s dining room with co-owner Remi McManus in 2021.

Serving Mexican cuisine, Alamilla opened Amano with his wife, Becca, in 2019. Rave reviews soon followed, including from fellow chefs. “Sal’s food, what he does with his family up there — it’s delicious,” Komori said. “And it’s pure. It’s good, happy food. I think that’s something that the (James Beard) Foundation is looking for a little bit more now.”

Komori and Alamilla will face formidable competition to win a James Beard Award. The other three nominees in the Mountain Region are Michael Diaz de Leon of Bruto in Denver; Suchada Johnson of Teton Thai in Teton Village, Wyoming; and Ali Sabbah of Mazza in Salt Lake City.

Amano co-owner and chef Salvador Alamilla has earned rave reviews in Canyon County.
Amano co-owner and chef Salvador Alamilla has earned rave reviews in Canyon County.

Winners will be revealed June 5 at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards.

Komori hopes to do some fundraising and take the entire Kin staff to the ceremony in Chicago, he said.

“To a certain degree, it’s a little like all this March Madness stuff that happens,” he explained. “You’re super happy to get into the tournament, but at a certain point, it’s like, ‘We’re in the Final Four!’ That is a different thing.”

Whatever happens in the end, having two Treasure Valley chefs reach the finals helps elevate Idaho’s dining scene.

“It’s not just in quality of food, but it’s in quality of culture within the restaurants,” Komori said. “Meaning places that take care of their staff and treat them with respect and pay. All of that love behind the scenes a little bit, it shows in the experience of a guest. They see happy people and they eat food that has joy in it.

“That’s a little thing on the surface, but it’s a huge thing that differentiates places. To know that that standard is now being raised here, and consistently — it’s a good sign for the future of the Valley’s food scene.”