Given annually by the James Beard Foundation since 1990, the awards recognize chefs, restaurateurs, authors and journalists who have contributed significantly to food culture in the United States.
This year’s awards come in the wake of changes in the rules designed to make the foundation more inclusive, with key committees aiming to be at least as diverse as the current U.S. population.
Gresser learned to cook from her mother, who ran a catering company, becoming a professional in the San Francisco food scene as the new American cuisine movement — which combined traditional American techniques with a melting pot of flavors — was starting.
In 1991, she applied that ethos to pizza, opening Pizzeria Paradiso in the second floor of a Dupont Circle townhouse. The critically acclaimed restaurant has since expanded to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria and its fourth location in Hyattsville. A fifth location has since opened in D.C.’s Spring Valley.
The Hyattsville location is unique because it shares the building with Art Works Now, a youth-oriented arts education center run by Gresser’s life partner, Mount Rainier native Barbara Johnson.