Don Guerra of Barrio Bread wins a James Beard Award for ‘Outstanding Baker’

It happened. It finally happened!

After three nominations, Don Guerra of Barrio Bread has won the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Baker.”

Don flew to Chicago to attend the ceremony on Saturday, spent some time visiting the windy city on Sunday, and by early Monday morning he was on local Chicago TV talking up not only his techniques and use of Sonoran heritage grains that he uses in his award-winning bread, but chronicling his ascent from P.E. teacher, to baking out of his garage, to his brick-and-mortar on Broadway, to now being a James Beard winner.

Don Guerra

Photo courtesy of Don Guerra on Instagram

Oh, and he may have mentioned Tucson now and then.

I was fortunate to chat with Don before he left for Chicago and to be honest with you, he was a bit flustered.

“There’s a lot of butterflies going on right now,” said Guerra.

Then I assured him that he would win. That he would finally win. Then he left. Then three days later, he won. This, at present, is Tucson’s third James Beard trophy, the first going to our culinary statesman Janos Wilder and then the other to El Guero Canelo, who won the James Beard “American Classic” award in 2018.

It is so exciting that Don won but let us not forget that Maria Mazon of BOCA Tacos y Tacos and John Martinez of Tito & Pep were nominated as well. With a little luck, Tucson will become this hub of James Beard Award winners, and with a little luck, we still may maintain our integrity as a small town with big values and even bigger ideals as far as sustainable, true southwest cooking is concerned.

So, cheers to all of our chefs and innovators that continue to amaze and delight our senses with incredible, fundamental cuisine that celebrates our heritage and Native culture here in the Sonoran Desert.

That said, big congratulations to Don Guerra — the sweetest, most hardworking, and generous man to grace Tucson’s landscape with some of the most talented chefs, bakers, and producers this city has to offer the rest of the world.

His bread is just one aspect of that award. His heart is the other 99 percent. That reason alone is why that award means so much to us and for him, we would assume. Those butterflies must be flying free for him right now.

Barrio Bread's Don Guerra in his home bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Barrio Bread’s Don Guerra in his home bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“All of my creations are rooted in my passion for producing superior baked goods that tell the story of Tucson,” said Guerra. “I am humbled to have been selected as the winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Baker award. This award exemplifies the unwavering support I’ve received from so many people, including my family and those in the community – the patrons, the farmers, my staff, and the restaurants that serve Barrio Bread’s products.”

For more information about Don Guerra and Barrio Bread, visit


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It was a Sonoran hot dog that made Mark switch from music journalism to food writing when he moved to Tucson from San Francisco in 2006. He hasn’t been the same since.