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We Won a James Beard Award, a Letter From Our Publisher

5:05 PM PDT on May 27, 2020

[dropcap size=big]J[/dropcap]ust yesterday we gave our highest award, Taco Madness Championship, to local chef Jonathan Perez, who goes by Macheen at pop-ups and on social media. Jonathan's journey represents everything great about Los Angeles and everything we at L.A. TACO have been celebrating for the last 15 years. His gratitude and excitement in winning, calling it like winning the World Cup for an L.A. Taqueros, was humbling for all of us.

We ran our first Taco Madness competition in 2009, and the winner was the beloved, family-owned taco stand Yuca's in Los Feliz. The journey from there to Macheen, a chef-driven pop-up looking to change the taco game with every plate, is not a straight line but it nicely mirrors both the city of L.A. and L.A. TACO.

When a small group of friends started the website back in 2005, L.A. was not considered by outsiders as the dining destination or even the very cool place that it is seen as today. It was both of those things – and that even our local media didn't seem to respect what was happening in our city – that drove L.A. Taco's birth.

Publications in N.Y.C. and S.F. used us as a punching bag. The L.A. Times covered a world that was familiar to the mainstream, with its focus on West L.A. and the rest of the world, and the L.A. Weekly served as an alternative to the Times but didn't necessarily cover the parts of the city we were the most interested in: Tacos and its prism to view our city's arts and culture. The one exception was Jonathan Gold of course, whose writing inspired us, and whose legendary trek through Pico Boulevard in 1998 created a template for a different way to experience and write about our Los Angeles.

We never had any money for the website but were blessed with the writing talents of Hadley Tomicki and the incredible photography of Colin Browne, AKA "CBRO," along with a group of young writers looking for an opportunity to get their words into some sort of publication, such as Erick Hurta, who wrote our first-ever viral piece on LAPD's use of social media.

In the early years, most of our focus was on the city's nascent street art scene, complimented by the graffiti that has been so important to Los Angeles since the 1970s. As we found a bigger audience, we expanded into event coverage, led by photographer Erwin Recinos. We believe that a great city needs a dynamic and diverse media, not only to provide different perspectives but also to push each other. In the past 15 years, we've been a relentless advocate for our city, and hopefully have inspired other publications to cover the real Los Angeles, the one so many of us know and love,and rarely used to see reported on by the Times or Weekly.

When the Weekly went down in 2017 and LAist stopped publishing, we knew we had to do something. Daniel Hernandez, an old friend of the Taco who is one of the finest journalists in our city, took an active role and heroically rebooted the Taco from culture blog to respectable news site with a leadership role to play in city affairs. He brought in writers and multimedia journalists like Mariah Castañada, Melissa Mora-Hidalgo, and Erick Galindo. His selfless dedication and long hours created the foundation allowed his successor, Javier Cabral, to fully realize the promise we have working towards all along.

Javier's vision of a city covered from the streets up, through the things that bind us together, is the very same as what we planned way back when — the site is called L.A. Taco because we felt the one thing that has the potential to unite every corner of this city is the taco.

Which brings us to today, and the news that L.A. TACO, under the leadership of Editor Javier Cabral, has won the prestigious Emerging Voice award from the James Beard Foundation.

Javier's leadership, instincts, and true passion for writing and editing have made this honor possible. Just as we are so humbled by the passion with which Macheen claimed our Taco Madness award, it goes double for the James Beard award. We love covering this city. Our mission is far from complete, but with all of the ups and downs, and the struggle to create a viable media alternative, it's a true honor to be recognized.

We dedicate this award to our members. You are over 1,000 strong and you inspire us, you challenge us, and you made all of this possible.

Everyone is invited to join us, this journey has been long but in many ways, it's just getting started.

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