“Who are those two skinny fucking bastards?”
That was Myriad Restaurant Group chief Drew Nieporent, on stage at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on Monday for what some people insist on calling the Oscars of the restaurant world. They are, of course, the James Beard Foundation Awards, and they’re not the Oscars, not least because it’s perfectly fine for Drew to call Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich skinny fucking bastards at them. Because these are the awards for the restaurant industry, and restaurant people talk like that.
Well, not all of them. If Danny Meyer does talk like that, he doesn’t do so on stage.
Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have trimmed down in recent years, especially Bastianich, and they had just announced that Drew had been named Restaurateur of the Year. So I imagine that Drew was giddy. I imagine that he also was sorely disappointed, because, minutes before, his restaurant Corton was not named best new restaurant. David Chang’s Momofuku Ko was. (I also imagine Drew reading this and asking me why I didn’t just call him and ask him how he felt, but that takes all the fun out of it).
“Next he’s going to say, ‘Fuck you. David Chang!‘” I said to John T. Edge, an extremely engaging man whom I’d never met before but whose company in the press room I availed myself of and enjoyed very much — particularly in the mysterious absence of Bon Appétit restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton, who had told me the night before at Chefs Night Out that he’d be in the press room.
And Drew pretty much did say that to David Chang, but much more tactfully, by saying the very hard-working chef, Corton’s Paul Liebrandt, deserved recognition.
These were my eleventh Beard awards, and I thought of skipping them. My boss, Pamela Parseghian, was there taking pictures, and I knew I’d get a press release in the morning listing the winners even if I didn’t feel like following any of the live tweets of the legion of people who were tweeting the winners (Lockhart Steele, looking unusually bleary eyed, was typing away at a laptop; and Amanda Kludt of Eater seemed to be alternately interviewing, blogging and tweeting, which is appropriate).
(I tweeted random observations until my cell phone died. you can follow my tweets here if you’re curious.)
But the Beard Awards are still a good party. And I like the fact that most of the chefs don’t seem to feel comfortable on stage. The men mostly look awkward in their tuxedos. The women mostly don’t look like they enjoy walking in heels. They’re back-of-the-house people and that’s where they feel most at home. And that’s why the Beard Awards always will be different from and better than the Oscars.
The press room has become something of a madhouse, although it was either less of a zoo this year or I simply anticipated that it would be more of a zoo than it was. While the audience in Avery Fisher Hall sat and starved over the several hours that the awards ceremony lasted (I lost track of time), we sampled cheese and drank cocktails, Champagne and coffee.
The awards are traditionally followed by a large reception, but this year, for some reason, they started serving early, and people left the ceremony without listening to the speech of Dan Barber, who at the end of the evening was named this year’s outstanding chef. I thought that was mighty rude.
I didn’t eat much at the reception, because I like to let the paying guests eat. I did have a cocktail, some wine, a bit of duck hot dog with foie gras mustard, some cheese and another nibble or two.
So I had a miniburger at the after-party in the basement of Bar Boulud, plus some cruditées and aïoli that were in a room on the left side of the basement. The middle room and the room on the right were packed, but for some reason people had stayed out of the room with the cruditées. It was strange.
Then I went with my new friend, food scientist and aspiring writer Rachel Zemser, and her brother Robert, to Terroir, which had been nominated for a design award but didn’t win. Not to be dismayed so easily, they threw a party anyway, and I hung out with their operations manager, my friend and fellow Coloradan David Flaherty, husband of my other friend, Bullfrog & Baum’s own Katherine Bryant. That’s her back there, on the left. She’s standing next to Katie Grieco, wife of Terroir’s co-owner, Paul Grieco.
In Nation’s Restaurant News: NYC restaurants take top honors at Beard Awards
Plus: a slide show from Pam!