(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Two local chefs have been named semifinalists for a prestigious James Beard award.
Rahman “Rock” Harper of Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken on Columbia Pike and Kevin Tien, owner of Hot Lola’s in Rosslyn and Ballston, were both recognized as semifinalists for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” in this year’s James Beard awards. The nominations were announced last week.
Named after the famed American chef, the national award recognizes “exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system.”
The Alexandria native Harper is the owner and head chef at Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken, located inside the local incubator Kitchen of Purpose at 918 S. Lincoln Street, just off of Columbia Pike, in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
It opened in late 2020 with a menu, as might be expected considering the name, focused on fried chicken sandwiches.
Harper is also an author and winner of the third season of the cooking reality show “Hell’s Kitchen.” He told ARLnow that being named a James Beard semifinalist was a “pleasant surprise” and that the response from critics and diners alike has been “surreal.”
“They remind me that while pursuing my passion for telling Black stories through food, we will be rewarded with positive feedback along the journey,” Harper said via email. “Columbia Pike and Arlington have been incredibly supportive and welcoming to Queen Mother’s and I look forward to being here for many years! I hope this can serve as an example to customers, restaurateurs, elected officials, and developers that the future of Arlington and Northern Virginia dining is pretty bright.”
While Tien was actually nominated for his cooking at D.C.’s Moon Rabbit, he’s also known for Hot Lola’s and its two Arlington locations. The fast-casual restaurant also serves fried chicken sandwiches, but Tien’s blends Sichuan spices with the traditional Nashville recipe, creating his own brand of hot chicken.
The first Hot Lola’s location opened in the Ballston Quarter food hall in 2019, while the Rosslyn restaurant opened this past summer. Another location is coming to Fairfax County’s Lincolnia neighborhood.
Tien told ARLnow that being nominated for a James Beard award is an “amazing accomplishment” and represents “more than just good food and service.“
“It represents the commitment we make to our team, our community, our purveyors that we are cooking with purpose and for a cause,” he said via email. “To have a restaurant in Virginia with two other amazing Virginia chefs, Rock Harper and Joy Crump whom I love so much is incredible. The Arlington and NoVa dining scene is amazing and I am happy to be a small part of it.”
Ruthie’s All-Day chef and owner Matt Hill was named a Mid-Atlantic semifinalist last year as well.
It’s been a big month for local restaurant recognition. Four Arlington eateries were included in Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list for 2023 last week, while Charga Grill on Langston Blvd was named the area’s best casual restaurant by Washington Post food critic Tim Carman earlier in January.
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