There was a major win for the culinary Black and African diaspora at the 2024 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards. Hosted at the Lyric Opera in Chicago on June 10, Chef Serigne Mbaye received this year’s award for “Best New Restaurant.” The honor toasted his pescatarian Senegalese tasting menu at New Orleans’ Dakar NOLA. 

The restaurant’s website notes that Mbaye “was born in Harlem, raised in Dakar and at home in New Orleans.” The chef spearheads the execution of Dakar NOLA’s award-winning menu and co-owns the culinary establishment with the spot’s managing director, Dr. Afua “Effie” Richardson. The latter, a board-certified pediatric dentist and “hostess by inclination,” was born in Pennsylvania to Ghanaian parents.

According to CNN, Mbaye spoke at this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony and highlighted his roots. He said, “I always knew that West Africa had something to say,” later adding, “That kept me going.”

“The South got something to say. The Wolof people of Senegal have something to say!” Dakar NOLA added on Instagram underneath a photo of Mbaye. “Winning the James Beard Award is a testament to our commitment to celebrating the rich culinary heritage of Senegal and New Orleans, and it inspires us to continue pushing the boundaries of culinary excellence. We are excited about what the future holds and look forward to welcoming you to Dakar NOLA to experience our award-winning cuisine.”

What Makes Dakar NOLA Special?

Dakar NOLA is a truly beautiful testament to the diaspora. The hot spot was on Eater and Bon Appétit’s lists, respectively, for Best New Restaurants in 2023. Moreover, it has already made USA Today’s Restaurant of the Year list for 2024.

The restaurant notes that its seven-course seasonal tasting menu “tells the story of the deep connection between Senegambia and New Orleans through food.” Dakar NOLA’s site additionally outlines that the menu changes frequently, and most dishes are dairy and gluten-free.

The plates look perfect — and you can tell Mbaye and his team take pride in what they serve. Something visitors can look forward to is the menu’s variations of Gulf shrimp, which Mbaye is fond of.

Resy beautifully described the spot as “compact,” brimming “with African art,” and filled with “oval community tables for a total seating of 30 guests.”

“There are no artificial airs of elegance, no inflated sense of ego that often accompanies prestige. Dakar emanates the warm, welcoming spirit of Mbaye and Richardson’s West African heritage, inviting everyone to their celebration of the culture and history of New Orleans,” the source praised.