Everyone knows that the chef is the new rock star. Instead of smoldering on a stage the modern sex symbol wields knives and a discerning tongue. The rise of the chef can be attributed largely to the establishment of the Food Network on April 19, 1993. Shows like Top Chef introduced America to the forces in the kitchen turning them into household faces and names. People began to associate personality with different cooking styles, brands flourished and a new breed of celebrity was born.
The James Beard Awards were founded in 1990 and since that time have evolved into the most prestigious culinary honor in America. They are the Oscars of the food world held at the first of May each year. In 2015 the main ceremony was moved from New York to Chicago with the Media Awards (formerly Book, Broadcast, & Journalism) remaining.
I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural year at the Chicago Lyric House for the 25th anniversary of the awards. The show itself was as any other ceremonial program…long and the theater seats uncomfortable. Still, it’s an incredible honor to be seated among the F&B industry’s Who’s Who. The privilege of seeing those who have poured blood, sweat, and tears into their work (though we hope not literally) being recognized in person, in real time is indescribable. The emotional energy that charges the room: hope, fear, relief, gratitude…it makes for a heady combination.
The $500 ticket price also includes the red carpet & gala reception. (If you’re a JBF member tickets run for $425.) Guests can snag a photo with their kitchen hero before enjoying the orgiastic walk-around that features no less than twenty recent JBF award winners there to chat with you and share their tasting dish specially created for the evening.
For anyone else who fantasizes about dirty talking trussing and basting with bad boy kitchen god, Anthony Bourdain, or hot young thing, Ari Taymor, (see also Franco Noriega… Estoy enamorada). This is your chance.
Congratulations to this year's winners recognized yesterday, May 1st:
Best New Restaurant: Le Coucou, NYC
Outstanding Baker: Mark Furstenberg, Bread Furst, Washington, D.C.
Outstanding Bar Program: Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans
Outstanding Chef: Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, NYC
Outstanding Restaurant: Topolobampo, Chicago
Outstanding Restaurateur: Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia (Le Coucou, Serpico, Upland, and others)
Outstanding Service: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Outstanding Wine Program: Canlis, Seattle
Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional: Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Zachary Engel, Shaya, New Orleans
Outstanding Restaurant Design, 75 Seats and Under: Avroko for Single Thread, Healdsburg, CA
Outstanding Restaurant Design, More Than 75 Seats: Meyer Davis for St. Cecilia, Atlanta
BEST CHEFS, REGIONAL CATEGORIES
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH): Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde, Chicago
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA): Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI): Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
Best Chef: New York City: Marco Canora, Hearth
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY State, RI, VT): Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY): Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, Ox, Portland, OR
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, Puerto Rico): Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV): Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT): Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV): Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco
2017 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics
La Taqueria, San Francisco
Schultz’s Crab House, Maryland
Gioia’s Deli, St. Louis
Bertha’s Kitchen, North Charleston
2017 James Beard Foundation Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees
2017 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year
Denise Cerreta, One World Everybody Eats
2017 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award
Nora Pouillon, Restaurant Nora (Washington, DC)
With love from the insatiable,