Wednesday, May 9, 2012

James Beard Awards weekend: The Fab 4

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards weekend is over, with the usual and the unusual. (The usual: Anthony Bourdain's snippy tweets criticizing things he wasn't there to see.)

I'd rather remember the highlights:

First, that picture at the top. In honor of the 25th anniversary, the foundation released a cookbook, "The Best of the Best," featuring the outstanding chef winners over 25 years. To celebrate, there was a small cocktail party Sunday night at the Beard House on West 12th Street. The guest list was small - the house is so tiny, you have to take a deep breath to turn around - but it was select. Standing out on the second floor landing, I snapped a picture of a remarkable foursome: Thomas Keller, Alfred Portale, Patrick O'Connell and Jeremiah Tower, with foundation president Susan Ungaro (right).

Next, Charlotte sightings: Chef Joe Bonaparte of the Art Institute's International Culinary Program was hanging out late Sunday night at the Chef's Night Out event at the Chelsea Market. And in the sequin-to-satin sardine-tight crowd at the chef stations after the awards gala, I shuffled past Mark Allison, dean of culinary affairs, and Patricia Del Bello, both of Johnson & Wales University Charlotte.

The best Southern hugging and eating: Since the Beard Awards presentation goes on for hours while you wait to get something to eat, members of the Southern Foodways Alliance have a tradition of gathering at Alex Guarneschelli's restaurant Butter to eat and drink as much as possible to sustain us through the long night. It's such a good time that chef Bill Smith of Crook's Corner, who wasn't even going to the awards, still flew up to New York for the weekend just to enjoy the lunch.

Carolinas nominees were in short supply this year. But Hugh Acheson of 5 & 10 in Athens and Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta scored a shared win: There was a tie for Best Chef Southeast. Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, last year's winner, was cooking at the gala, and Ashley Christensen of Poole's Dinner/Beasleys/Chuck's in Raleigh was around at a bunch of events, even pulling the pork shoulders at a Derby Party in Park Slope given by Kat Kinsman of CNN and

Female winners were not in short supply, I'm happy to say. Maricel Presilla of the delightful restaurant Cucharamama in Hoboken, N.J., won Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic; Christini Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar won Rising Star Chef (particularly nice to see a pastry chef get treated like a "real" chef) and Mindy Segal of Mindy's HotChocolate in Chicago won for pastry chef.

And yes, after a four-day weekend of chef events, awards shows and food, this is my new slogan (right). Maybe I'll make it my new Twitter profile picture.

Get the full list of winners of all the awards, including the Book, Broadcast and Journalism awards given Friday, at

And in disclosure: After serving as a member and then chair of the James Beard book awards, I was asked to stay on to chair the JBF Leadership Awards, announced in the fall, which honor food sustainability and food policy. As a chair, I'm also a member of the awards committee that oversees all the awards events.


Best restaurant in nj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.