Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beard handicapping ’09

March 29

I’m writing this blog entry, a few days later than I should be, from the Rome airport. The nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards always seem to come out when I’m out of the country, meaning I’m late in telling you who’s going to win them.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit arrogant. In the past two years I’ve guessed 7 out of 19 awards correctly, each year, which doesn’t exactly make me Nostradamus, but if you put it in baseball terms it's batting 368, which is pretty good.
My predictions are based basically on the fact that I cynically believe that the Beard awards are a popularity contest based not on the winners' abilities but on whether or not the cadre of journalists and past winners who vote for them feel good about them on some other level. So my predictions are knee-jerk reactions based on the buzz that’s in the air about the chefs, restaurants and other nominees in question, except for a couple which are just flat-out guesses.
In no way, by any stretch of the imagination, should anyone infer that the people I’m guessing will win are the people (or restaurants) I think should win. All the nominees that I know are terrific people (or restaurants), consummate professionals and every bit as worthy of recognition as anyone else.
And now, my predictions:

Outstanding Chef:
José Andrés
Dan Barber
Tom Colicchio
Suzanne Goin
Paul Kahan

Outstanding Restaurant:
Fore Street
Highlands Bar & Grill
Jean Georges

Outstanding Restaurateur:
Tom Douglas
Keith McNally
Richard Melman
Drew Nieporent
Stephen Starr

Outstanding Service:
Emeril’s New Orleans
La Grenouille

Best New Restaurant:
The Bazaar by José Andrés,
Momofuku KO

Outstanding Pastry Chef :
Gina DePalma
Kamel Guechida
Pichet Ong
Nicole Plue
Mindy Segal

Rising Star:
Nate Appleman
Sean Brock
Johnny Monis
Gabriel Rucker
Michael Solomonov
Sue Zemanick

Wine & Spirits Professional:
Dale DeGroff
Merry Edwards
Garrett Oliver
John and Doug Shafer
Julian P. Van Winkle

Outstanding Wine Service:
Bin 36
Blackberry Farm
Le Bernardin
Picasso at Bellagio

Regional awards:
Great Lakes:
Koren Grieveson
Arun Sampanthavivat
Bruce Sherman
Michael Symon
Alex Young

Isaac Becker
Gerard Craft
Colby Garrelts
Tim McKee
Alexander Roberts

Rob Evans
Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier
Michael Leviton
Tony Maws
Marc Orfaly

New York City:
Michael Anthony
Terrance Brennan
Wylie Dufresne
Gabrielle Hamilton
Gabriel Kreuther

Cathal Armstrong
Jose Garces
Peter Pastan
Maricel Presilla
Vikram Sunderam

Hugh Acheson
Linton Hopkins
Mike Lata
Bill Smith
Bob Waggoner

Zach Bell
John Currence
John Harris
Douglas Rodriguez
Michael Schwartz

Paul Bartolotta
Sharon Hage
Ryan Hardy
Claude Le Tohic
Andrew Weissman

Jeremy Fox
Douglas Keane
Loretta Keller
David Kinch
Daniel Patterson

Maria Hines
Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez
Ethan Stowell
Cathy Whims
Jason Wilson

By the way, I did considerably better at predicting this year's nominees. I got a full three-quarters of them right, which doesn't show how smart I am, but how predictable these awards are.

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