I might be over-interpreting the San Francisco Chronicle’s lede in its story about Nate Appleman quitting his job “[j]ust two months after nabbing the national James Beard Foundation award for Rising Star Chef.” But to me it sounds a tiny bit accusatory, like you’re not supposed to quit a job after winning an award there.
But it’s not an uncommon practice. Of the past ten chefs to win the Rising Star award, including young Mr. Appleman (he has to be young, you have to be aged 30 or younger to win the award), four have left their jobs within a year or so. Grant Achatz won the award in 2003 for his work at Trio in Evanston, Ill., and soon left to work on Alinea in Chicago, which opened the following year. Allison Vines-Rushing quit Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar in New York about a year after winning the award in 2004. She moved to Louisiana and opened Longbranch.
Christopher Lee was named Rising Star at Striped Bass in Philadelphia in 2005. He became chef of Gilt in New York in 2006.
David Chang was named Rising Star in 2007. Being an entrepreneur, he couldn’t quit his own restaurant, but no doubt that award, and the nine quadrillion others that he’s received, have helped him to expand his empire.
There’s no shame in it.