James Beard Awards
Lincoln Center, New York, New York
New York is such a scene, isn’t it, what with its gossip girls and tourists, bomb threats and celebrity wars?
During the first weekend in May, New York becomes temporarily mobbed with chefs and their groupies, all flocking to attend what has been dubbed, “the Oscars of the restaurant industry.”
Last weekend I had the great privilege of attending the James Beard Awards for the fourth year. (See all of the photos from the James Beard Awards HERE.)
Always an intense trip, packed full of friends, restaurants, and food, food, food, this year’s trip was especially so. Charged by some inexplicable energy, I squeaked by on 18 hours of sleep in five days, running and walking all over the city in between stuffing my face at restaurants and bars here and there.
My restaurant choices this time represented a mix of baroque and modern, haute and humble, familiar and new. My meals ranged from good to unexpectedly spectacular. Please be patient while I readjust to life in the Midwest. Reviews will begin issuing shortly.
I’ve hyper-linked the restaurants below to my reviews.
I also had a chance to drop in for a drink at the Modern Bar (MoMA), Gilt (Palace Hotel), Stumptown (in the Ace Hotel), and maze (London Hotel).
This year’s awards ceremony was particularly great for a number of reasons.
It was shorter. Some blessed soul at Central Command decided to move the cookbook awards to the journalism awards ceremony, as had been heavily lobbied by attendees in the past. (The James Beard Foundation’s journalism awards ceremony is held the night before the chefs’ awards ceremony.)
There were many very notable chefs among this year’s gala’s guest chefs. In accordance with this year’s theme – “The Legacy Continues” – all of the guest chefs were cherry-picked by their mentors, all past winners of the “Outstanding Chef” award. Michael Tusk (Quince, selected by Alice Waters), Cal Stamanov (Marinus, selected by Michel Richard), Andy Nusser (Tarry Lodge, selected by Mario Batali), and Jennifer Carroll (10 Arts, selected by Eric Ripert) were among them.
And, as icing on the cake, a number of chefs and restaurants I admire were honored. Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park took home the title of Best Chef New York. David Kinch of Manresa was named Best Chef Pacific. Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink won the award for Best Chef South. And Jean Georges was given the distinction of Outstanding Wine Service (making it the third year in a row that the restaurant where I have lunch the day of the awards takes home a medal that night).
I didn’t manage to fit in as much gala food as I have in previous years. But given the A-list of guest chefs this year, I tried to visit as many tables as I could.
My favorite guest chef creations this year included Sam Mason’s spectacular “Bone Marrow Flan with onion marmalade on toasted brioche; James Kent’s (Eleven Madison Park, United States representative to the Bocuse d’Or) “Scottish Smoked Salmon Tartare” with smoked mousse, yuzu, and trout roe, Noriyuki Sugie’s (IRONNORI, selected by Charlie Trotter) “Marinated Beef Short Rib Pastrami” on nori brioche, and a delicious “Roasted White Chocolate Mousse” with poached cherries presented by Bill Corbett (coi, selected by Gina DePalma).
Could Jonathan Benno (selected by Thomas Keller; has anyone else noticed that Benno has the most kind smile permanently stitched to his face?) have been giving us a preview of his Italian restaurant, opening in Lincoln Center later this year, with his “Vitello Tonnato Panino?” If so, we should expect to see some wonderful Italian food arriving on the Upper West Side shortly.
The after-parties, there were many, including a fraternity row revival at má pêche and a good-old dance party at Eleven Madison Park. At the latter, the highlights included Chef Daniel Humm’s hot dogs and a 1 a.m. Champagne hosing by two four-starred Daniels – Humm and Boulud (Daniel Boulud was the proud papa of this year’s winner for Outstanding Restaurant, Daniel).
And there was a conclave at the Essex House penthouse in the wee hours of the morning to watch the sun rise (thank you for the invitation, you know who you are). Unfortunately, I ran out of gas.
My take-away from the James Beard Awards: chefs have livers made of steel.
A hearty congratulations to all of this year’s winners.