Randy Rucker lands Beard Award chef nomination

The renowned chef plies his treasured trade at East Passyunk Avenue’s River Twice.

 Going about his craft with care and consideration, Randy Rucker has won plaudits for his culinary prowess. He can now add the 2024 James Beard Awards semi-finalist distinction as Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region to his honors. 

River Twice opened in October 2019.

“My wife Amanda called me to let me know,” the chef/owner of River Twice, 1601 E. Passyunk Ave., explained of his second individual nomination from the New York-based James Beard Foundation. “I thought I was in trouble because of the tone of excitement in her voice. I thought I got a parking ticket or something. She had to repeat [it] a couple times before I understood.” 

While the Texas native might have needed convincing, diners have had faith in what he’s been doing at his East Passyunk Crossing restaurant since 2019. When the Beard nomination news came late last month, Rucker joined other nominated local chefs including Jesse Ito, of Royal Sushi & Izakaya, 780 S. Second St., and fellow South Philly restauranteur Carlos Aparicio, from El Chingon, 1524 S. 10th St.

Rucker and his peers will learn April 3 of the committee’s decision, with June 10 set as the ceremony date. 

River Twice’s scallops with XO sauce come on chawanmushi toast with Maine uni. (Image by Mike Prince)

Asked how the Foundation learned about his work at the 32-seat space he runs with his wife, Rucker replied, “I really don’t know about all that. I am just happy to be a semi-finalist, as it’s a huge validation of the work that the team here does daily.” 

On the restaurant’s website, Rucker touts a desire to share with Philadelphians “how a passion for thoughtfully sourced ingredients can transform one’s dining experience.” He and his staff do so with a four-course menu that places a strong emphasis on seafood.

No matter the endeavor, he always strives for a connection between his plates and patrons, and that devotion will be on display on March 12, with the Beard Foundation set to hold a Taste America culinary series gathering at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

River Twice’s Mother Rucker burger has won favor among diners. (Image by Mike Prince)

“We will be doing one of two dishes [for that],” Rucker said, describing the two options: a porridge of New Jersey sushi rice with peekytoe crab, crab fat sofrito, and golden ossetra caviar; or tartare of beef with smoked kohlrabi, gamtae, and oyster XO sauce to be the choice. 

While the personal accolades would further boost his prestige in the industry, Rucker is more sanguine about what the praise would mean for the restaurant and his colleagues there. “If we make it to the final round or even win, it would be a huge victory for the River Twice team,” he said. “It all comes perfectly timed with our new restaurant opening later this year in Rittenhouse, which we are very thankful for.”

River Twice
1601 E. Passyunk Ave.
Monday and Thursday-Saturday: 6 to 10 p.m.