To win a restaurant award from the James Beard Foundation you need to jump three hurdles. First, a judge must nominate you. Next, you must be among the top five (or sometimes six) vote getters among those nominated. Then you need to get the most votes from that group.
Until last year, no one knew who passed the first hurdle. But in 2008 someone leaked the preliminary list, and it was published all over the Internet. This year, the Beard Foundation seems to have decided to manage the story themselves and released the list to the media.
Or as their publicist told me: “There was such a great interest last year in the semifinalists, so this year, JBF wanted to release the semifinalist list again to give people a window into how the nominations process works.”
Well, anyway, to me the list looks like a list of any chef, restaurateur, restaurant or wine or spirits professional who was nominated by any judge, but it could have been whittled down by the various committee chairs. I haven’t asked.
In most categories, the same people, more or less, are nominated every year until they win. The winner is taken off the list and a replacement is named. It's not unusual for four out of five nominees in a category to be named two years in a row, and it seems to me that three out of five is pretty much the norm.
That’s not true for best new restaurant, of course.
For the “rising star” award, given to someone aged 30 or younger, most chefs who are nominated cross the age barrier before they win. This year, four out of last year’s six nominees are on the long list. Gavin Kaysen of Café Boulud won, so he's not on the list anymore. I guess the other nominee, Matt Molina of Mozza in Los Angeles, got too old.
I’m going to go ahead and predict that last year's other four nominees will be back on the list. They’re Nate Appleman of A16 in San Francisco, Sean Brock of McCrady's in Charleston, S.C., Johnny Monis of Komi in D.C., and Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon in Portland, Ore.
They’re going to need to be joined by one other nominee, and I’m going to predict that it will be Aaron Deal of Tristan in Charleston. That will mean two Charleston chefs and no New York chefs will be on the list, which is weird, but Aaron’s getting a lot of good press and since many of the judges are the press, media attention is a good predictor of nominees as well as winners.
That’s my approach in the predictions below, too. In no way does it reflect my opinion of the chefs nominated. I simply have noticed over the ten years that I have been covering the Beard awards that most nominees get renominated and the ones with the best name recognition win.
Best new restaurant is a tossup, because of course none of them could have been nominated last year. But I'm going to predict that Corton in New York, L20 in Chicago, Momofuku Ko in New York, The Bazaar by José Andreés at SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills in LA, and Bottega in Yountville will be on the list.
Let me reiterate that these are not my choices. These are my predictions of who will be on the list.
For outstanding restauratuer, we have as returning nominees Tom Douglas in Seattle and Richard Mellman in Chicago. I think they’ll be joined by New York restaurateurs Kieth McNally and Drew Nieporent, and, mmm. I’m not sure about the last nominee (well, obviously I’m not sure about any of them, but you know what I mean) I’m going to go ahead and guess Stephen Starr in Philadelphia, but if Pano Karatassos in Atlanta gets the nod, I won’t be surprised.
Outstanding chef went inevitably to Grant Achatz last year. José Andres in DC., Dan Barber in New York, Suzanne Goin in Los Angeles and Frank Stitt in Birmingham are on the long list again and I think they'll make it to the short list.
All of the usual suspects are on the long list, but Tom Colicchio recently returned to the kitchen in New York with Tom: Tuesday Dinner. I think that and his Top Chef star power will be enough for him to get the nomination.
For outstanding restaurant, Boulevard in San Francisco and Jean Georges in New York will be back on the list. I think they will be joined by Fore Street in Portland, Maine, Blackbird in Chicago and Bacchanalia in Atlanta.
For pastry chef, I think Gina de Palma of Babbo in New York, Pichet Ong of P*ong in New York, Nicole Plue of Redd in Yountville, Calif., and Mindy Segal of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago will be back on the list. Let’s see, that’s two in New York, one in Napa and one in Chicago. I’m going to guess that the last finalist will be in Las Vegas: Kamel Guechida of Joël Robuchon at the Mansion at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino.
Three of last year’s nominees for outstanding wine service are on the long list and I think they’ll all make the cut: Bin 36 in Chicago, Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., and Picasso at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
I think La Toque, the only restaurant on the long list located in California’s wine country, will get the cut, then the only New York potential nominee, Le Bernardin, will round out the list.
Moving on to wine and spirits professional, Dale DeGroff and Merry Edwards are on the long list and so will likely make the short one. I think Garrett Oliver of The Brooklyn Brewery will join them, along with Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va., and John and Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards in Napa, Calif.
For outstanding service, Canlis in Seattle, Spiaggia in Chicago and Vetri in Philadelphia will be returning nominees. Campanile in Los Angeles will be on the list, too, because Beard judges love Campanile. I think Daniel in New York will be nominated, too.
Okay, now for the regional awards.
Returning: Douglas Keane, Cyrus, Healdsburg, Calif.;David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif. and David Myers, Sona, Los Angeles
New: Jeremy Fox of Ubuntu in Napa and Chris Cosentino of Incanto in San Francisco
Returning: Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Va.; Jose Garces, Amada, Philadelphia; Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama, Hoboken, N.J. , and Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore. There's room for just one newbie, and I'm going to guess Jay Caputo of Espuma in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Returning: Isaac Becker, 112 Eatery, Minneapolis; Colby Garrelts, Bluestem, Kansas City, Mo.; Tim McKee, La Belle Vie, Minneapolis; and Alexander Roberts, Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis
Joining them I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess Gerard Craft of Niche in St. Louis.
I find it interesting that Graham Elliot Bowles didn’t even make it on the long list. I doubt that reflects on him, but I’m not sure what it does reflect on.
At any rate, on the long list, and probably on the short list: Bruce Sherman, North Pond, Chicago; Michael Symon, Lola, Cleveland; and Alex Young, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, Mich.
I think joining them will be Paul Virant of Vie in Western Springs, Ill., and Curtis Duffy of Avenues at the Peninsula Chicago, but it could really go a bunch of different ways.
For New York:
Returning: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern; Terrance Brennan, Picholine; Wylie Dufresne, WD-50; and Gabriel Kreuther, the Modern. I think Michael White of Alto will be the fifth nominee.
In the Northeast:
Returning: Rob Evans, Hugo's, Portland, Maine; Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows Restaurant, Ogunquit, Maine;, Michael Leviton of Lumière in West Newton, Mass., and Mark Orfaly of Pigalle in Boston.
For the fifth nominee, I'm going to predict Michael LaScola of American Seasons, on Massachusetts island of Nantucket.
Returning: Scott Dolich, Park Kitchen, Portland, Ore.; Maria Hines, Tilth, Seattle; Ethan Stowell, Union, Seattle; and
Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle.
New to the list (or really back on it as he has been nominated many times) I think will be Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez of The Harvest Vine in Seattle.
Returning: Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten, Athens, Ga.; Arnaud Berthelier, The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, Atlanta; Linton Hopinks of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta and Mike Lata of Fig in Charleston, S.C.
I think they’ll be joined by Bob Waggoner of Charleston Grill in Charleston, S.C.
Returning: Saipin Chutima, Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas; Sharon A. Hage, York Street, Dallas; Ryan Hardy, Montagna at the Little Nell, Aspen, Colo.; and Andrew Weissman, Le Rêve, San Antonio.
I'm going to predict Kelly Liken, of restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, Colo., as the fifth nominee
And finally the South:
Returning:Zach Bell, Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court, Palm Beach, Fla.; John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford, Miss.; Christopher Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, Ala.; and Douglas Rodriguez, Ola, Miami Beach, Fla.
I think Scott Boswell of Stella! in New Orleans will round out the list.
For the entire long list click here.