Friday, May 11, 2012

James Beard Foundation 2012 Awards

It was an overcast late afternoon in Gotham, the skies shedding a few spritzes -- a welcome change from last year’s blazing late-day heat on the red carpet.
Yet nothing could dampen the thrill and joy of seeing the country’s best chefs come together for what is affectionately known as the Academy Awards of the food world.

Winners were announced last night, Monday, May 7, 2012, at the annual 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards, the nation’s most prestigious recognition program honoring professionals in the food and beverage industries.
This year marked the 25th Anniversary of the James Beard Foundation Awards, and for the first time, the event was a virtual sell out.
During a ceremony hosted by chef and television personality Alton Brown at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, awards in the Restaurant and Chef and the Design and Graphics categories were presented, as well as a number of special achievement awards including "Who’s Who" of Food & Beverage in America, America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, and Humanitarian of the Year.
All award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. And the recognition of their peers.
The awards are marked by the red carpet entry on the plaza, the theater where the three-plus hour event is staged. 
Spotted Pig's Carol Rzeszewski on the Red Carpet
Best dressed on the carpet was Carol Rzeszewski, wine director at the Spotted Pig restaurant  
JBF Best Chef Nominee, April Bloomfield, Spotted Pig, The Breslin
Best accessory? Her red carpet partner with the blue suede shoes!  What style.

Her boss: Chef April Bloomfield  

Red Carpet mates for me included Behind The Dish TV's Stephen Fried, (very nice) and the handsome gentleman, Bonjwing Lee, Ulterior Epicure, Eater
JBF Award Winner, Thomas Keller, Per Se

After the award ceremony, the celebration gets into immediate and high gear with a multi-tiered food and drink presentations and tastings cum competition on the terrace and two floors of the soaring architecture designed to honor the fine arts.
Last night was no exception. 
The James Beard Foundation awards salutes the best in culinary arts.

Highlights from this year’s list of winners include:

Outstanding Chef New York City: Michael Anthony, chef and owner, Gramercy Tavern 
Chef Michael Anthony most deservedly took the medal this year, in spite of some recent health concerns he overcame and acknowledged while accepting the award.  Chef Mike is a class act, a gentleman, a culinary talent and an inspiration to all things homegrown.  Chef Mike thanked Danny Meyer and his team. Chef Mike is in my NYC Homegrown book – and I was over the moon when he took the time from TV interviews on the red carpet to come over and offer a hello kiss!

Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NYC) Eleven Madison Park Restaurant  To much applause, Humm profusely thanked the Foundation, and his wife, (said there should be an outstanding wife or spouse award) and Danny Meyer, his mentor, who Humm noted changed his life, changed the restaurant – and supported what they were doing at Eleven Madison even during the recession when some nights there might only have served 20 covers…

Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard (San Francisco) Boulevard Restaurant  Chef Nancy Oakes produced an incredible steak tartare and salmon, with truffle shavings at the after party that deserved its own JBF medal of honor!

Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC) Momofuku Restaurant

Best New Restaurant:  Next (Chicago) Next Restaurant  Grant Achatz’ “next” thing that changes accordingly

Outstanding Bar Program, PDT (NYC)

 PDT  -- The name is an acronym for “Please Don’t Tell” but the James Beard award seems sure to blast the secret East Village’s hidden location and Prohibition era style phone booth passage to the bar and temple of all things cocktail.
Incredible as it may seem, the Bar program 2012 was the first time mixologists were recognized since the JBF awards were launched 25 years ago. This year, the bartenders were lauded for helping to elevate the craft to a true profession and for fomenting a true cocktail Renaissance.

Outstanding Service, La Grenouille (NYC)  La Grenouille Restaurant  Simply elegant, sumptuous, dining in the very best French tradition for nearly 50 years.  Service matters.

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Paul Grieco, Terroir, (NYC) Hearth Restaurant Terroir Wine Bar

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama, (Hoboken, NJ) Cucharamama South America Cuisine Restaurant

Outstanding Restaurant Design
Le Bernardin, NYC, Design Firm: Bentel & Bentel Architects Le Bernardin

In addition, special achievement award honorees included:

Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America: Grant Achatz (Chef and Author, Chicago); Mark Bittman (Journalist and Author, NYC); Dana Cowin (Editor and Journalist, NYC); Emily Luchetti (Pastry Chef and Author, San Francisco); Marvin Shanken (Publisher, NYC)

America’s Classics: The Fry Bread House (Owner: Cecelia Miller, Phoenix); Nora’s Fish Creek Inn (Owners:  Nora Tygum, Trace Tygum, and Kathryn Tygum Taylor, Wilson, WY); St. Elmo Steak House (Owners: Stephen Huse and Craig Huse, Indianapolis); Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (Owners: James and Betty Jones, Marianna, AR); Shady Glen (Owners: William and Annette Hoch, Manchester, CT)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Wolfgang Puck (Chef and Restaurateur, Los Angeles)  Puck provided a charming and funny story of his rise from humble Austrian roots (his father told him he was taking on a woman’s job when he declared he wanted to cook and essentially through him out and the chef at his first job fired him only to find him working in the root cellar two weeks later!)  His ascendency to the pinnacle of the culinary world is sprinkled with celebrities and success and it was an interesting profile: an American rags to riches tale.

Humanitarian of the Year: Charlie Trotter (Chef and Restaurateur, Chicago)

Highlights from the inaugural 2011 JBF Food Conference and Leadership Awards was presented and moderated by Woody Campbell, Chairman, The JBF Board of Trustees and Sam Kass, White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives.  Excellent program that brought together food and nutrition thought leaders that works to promote a safer, healthier and sustainable way to eat, especially in the schools.
(The 2012 Food Conference is scheduled for October 17th and 18th at the Hearst Tower.)

Best Quote or Lines of the Night:  Tony Miller, L’Etoille, Madison Wisconsin who characterized the James Beard award as weird dudes who spreads awesomeness around the country.  Later, the owner of the Shady Glen, William Hoch, thanked the Foundation and said it was such an honor to be recognized by James Bond!

Industry leaders from across the country attended the highly anticipated festivities, which celebrated this year’s Awards theme of “25 Years of Food at its Best,” in tribute to the Foundation’s silver anniversary and mission that honors James Beard’s legacy by celebrating, nurturing, and preserving America’s diverse culinary heritage and future. In recognition of James Beard’s influence on our culinary world, the Foundation invited chefs who had the privilege of knowing James Beard personally, as well as those who have been influenced by his legacy, to prepare dishes inspired by recipes from his more than 20 cookbooks. At the Gala Reception immediately following the Awards Ceremony, guests enjoyed a dine-around gala prepared by these notable chefs, including many of this year’s winners and nominees, among them Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco, Paul Kahan of Blackbird in Chicago, and Emily Luchetti of Farallon in San Francisco.

Some of the culinary highlights at the after party included the aforementioned steak tartare and salmon with truffle shaving from Boulevard Restaurant, Stags Leap Wine, and Henriot Champagne and the refreshing cocktail made with Grey Goose Vodka.

The terrarium-like glass-filled jar of ham and parsley tureen with foi grois, rye crumble, mustard, arugula and mustard blossom from Menton Restaurant  (this would make a great appetizer or accompaniment to cocktails at a home party.
Morgan’s in the Desert at La Quinta Resort & Club’s Jimmy Schmidt served up delicious Jerusalem artichoke chanterelle salad with hazelnuts, Parmesan cheese/paprika emulsion.  Morgan's
Nora Pouillon’s Restaurant Nora, a champion of organic and local food, cooked up the tastiest, tiny burgers made with Ecopia Farms teeny lettuce and herbs and Ayrshire Farm’s grass fed, heritage-breed beef.  Fantastic taste.

Farallon Restaurant served up a culinary confection of almond cake, coconut, sweet and crisp fried almonds, rich yet light chocolate glaze and caramelized mascarpone that was just shy of sinful.
JBF shout out to The Dessert Professional, Genevieve Sawyer who, in the true culinary tradition of sharing with love, pointed me to some news goodies in the press room and allowed me to power up easily.  Thanks!

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards honor the best and the brightest talents in the food and beverage industries, celebrating outstanding achievement in each of the following categories: Restaurant and Chef, Restaurant Design and Graphics, Books, Broadcast and New Media, and Journalism, as well as several special achievement awards. Each category has an individual Awards Committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program.

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