Thursday, February 18, 2010

Beard Awards season begins

February 18

The James Beard Foundation has released its long list of semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards, following a tradition started two years ago when Josh Ozersky let the list leak when he was the grand poobah of Grub Street. Before then, just the finalists were announced.

This year, that will happen on March 22, and the winners will be awarded in an exceedingly long black tie ceremony at Avery Fisher Hall on May 3.

In the meantime, two rounds of voting are underway. First, starting today, judges will narrow down each category to five (or occasionally six) finalists, who will then be voted on by that same group of judges. The winner will have the opportunity to capitalize on the publicity. It’s generally very good for a chef to win a Beard Award. It doesn’t make him or her a better chef, but it can generate considerable publicity and revenue if the chefs play their cards right.

The nominees are already pretty well-known, at least in their markets, and quite often the same people are nominated year after year – although from what I’ve perused so far of the long list this year, there are quite a few new names, which is refreshing.

Mostly the Beard Awards are a feel-good popularity contest and a chance for the fine dining world to throw a series of big, fun parties. There’s nothing wrong with that.

And I consider two of the awards to be rather important: best new restaurant, and rising star.

The Rising Star award goes to a chef aged 30 or younger and can be a real career-maker. Past winners include Marcus Samuelsson, Andrew Carmellini, Grant Achatz, Chris Lee, Corey Lee, David Chang, Gavin Kaysen and, most recently, Nate Appelman. It’s a good award to win.

And best new restaurant, well, you only have one shot at it, and that alone makes it interesting.

Voting is done by former winners and food writers like me. But I’d like to give you a chance to vote, too.

So my new poll, as you can see in the upper right hand corner of this page, is your chance to make your pick for Rising Star chef of 2010.

Will this vote count in the actual selection process?

No, it will not.

Will it at least influence how I vote?

Again, no.

But it should be fun anyway, and it will give whichever chef wins a chance to promote himself or herself as the Food Writer’s Diary Rising Star Chef. It might not be as prestigious as the Beard Awards, although really, it depends on how you spin it.

And isn’t that true of any award?


Josh said...

I hereby nominate Bobby Hellen of Resto.

Bret Thorn said...

Thanks for the write-in effort, Josh.

texassteer said...

Chef Molly McCook may be over 30, but she's definitely a rising star (formerly at Stars in SF and sous chef at Lucques in L.A.). Her restaurant, Ellerbe Fine Foods of Fort Worth was named best new restaurant in Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.