Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Beard Awards 2010 — not a jedi to be seen

May 4

The James Beard Foundation Chef and Restaurant Awards ceremony and the awards press room were practically unrelated this year.

There are really two press rooms — one for sanctioned, formal photography of each of the winners, where people like Kent Miller take pictures like this of people like Timothy Hollingsworth (pictured here in a photo taken by Kent Miller), who was named Rising Star Chef of the Year at the awards last night.

Click here for a complete list of winners.

Then there’s the press room for the rest of us, where we drink Champagne and cocktails (there was even a gin sponsor this year), and eat cheese and drink espresso. This year there was caviar, too, all domestic and sustainable, yet tasty.

And there were little flat screen TVs where, if you wanted to, you could watch the beard awards.

You couldn’t hear them, though. The speakers weren’t working right, so to hear anything above the din of the socializing journalists you had to walk to the very front of the press room — a foyer, really — where you couldn’t see the TVs but you could hear pretty well.

If you didn’t pay attention, you missed the winners, and God help you if you wanted to hear any of their speeches, or the tribute to Michael and Ariane Batterberry, who were given lifetime achievement awards.

I did pop my head into the photographer’s press room long enough to notice that whenever an award winner was named, they played music from Star Wars.

I tried to figure that out. The theme for the awards was “The Legacy Continues,” which sounded bizarre, but it was supposed to be about mentoring and fostering talent and so on, which is nice.

Today I asked my sci-fi and pop-culture guru Blain Howard if "The Legacy Continues" could be associated with Star Wars in any way.

“30th Anniv of Empire is this year...so MAYBE? that?” he suggested.

I commended him for his efforts, and remain confused by the Star Wars music and by the fact that nobody who might possibly write about the awards could simultaneously see and hear them.

But it was still fun. I hung out with old friends, met some fans from the blogosphere, drank multiple cocktails and ate caviar, periodically peering up to see who had won what awards.

Last night I thought I’d predicted eight out of the 19 categories that I care about (I don’t guess the design and graphics awards), but I had missed the fact that Jason Wilson of Crush in Seattle won. I’d predicted that, too, meaning I got nine right. That’s practically half (47 percent), which isn’t bad if I do say so myself.

I didn’t eat much after the awards. I don’t like to stand in line for food, I was full on caviar canapés and the slice of pizza (pepperoni) I’d had before the awards, and there were pictures to take, people to catch up with etc., so I drank a Leffe Blonde and ate some Mangalica ham from D'Artagnan, and a "French Kiss" from them, too. That’s a foie gras-stuffed Armagnac-soaked prune, I believe. It was good.

And I took some pictures

I decided to pick one after party and stick to that one this year, and I picked Eleven Madison Park, whose chef, Daniel Humm, was named, as I predicted, best chef in New York City. It made sense. Daniel Boulud (whose restaurant Daniel won the Outstanding Restaurant award). Stood on some furniture with Humm and danced, eventually spraying the crowd with Champagne.

He did that in 2006 at an after party at Thor (he’d won Outstanding Restaurateur that year), so it was kind of old hat, but people loved it.

The picture above, taken by Kent Miller, is of Daniel Boulud earlier in the evening.

I have some pictures of my own to share, but they’ll have to wait as I’m late for dinner (at Aquavit, sampling the food of its new chef, Marcus Jernmark), so I’ll post one now, and more later.

(Starting on the left) This is French Culinary Institute dean emeritus Alain Sailhac with his wife Arlene, and awesome chef extraordinaire David Bouley and his wife Nicole Bartelme Bouley.

The Bouley’s were wed in a legendary, awesome five-day feast that was in fact covered for the New York Times by my good friend Thomas Crampton.

Oh, and below are the results of my most recent poll, in which I asked you to vote for the Rising Star Chef of the Year. I find the results interesting.

Timothy Hollingsworth, French Laundry, Yountville, Calif. 9 (31%)

Johnny Monis, Komi, Washington, D.C. 3 (10%)

Grégory Pugin, Veritas, New York City 3 (10%)

Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon, Portland, Ore. 7 (24%)

Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans 7 (24%)

May 7 update: I have dug myself out of the work hole I have been in all week and have time to upload some more pictures from the Beard Awards, starting with a shot of Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, chef-partner of Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo., and Bobby Stuckey, that restaurant’s master sommelier and partner.

Lachlan might be the quietest chef I know, or maybe we just haven’t had a chance to bond.

Next we have Gary Danko, who you won’t be surprised to learn is the chef-owner of restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco. To his left (your right) is George Atterbury, general manager of Craft restaurant in New York City.

I’m not sure what they’re doing together, and frankly it’s none of my business.

It’s none of yours, either.

Moving right along, we have Nancy Olson and Chris Bradley.

Nancy, of course, is the famous pastry chef of Gramercy Tavern in New York City, Chris is that restaurant’s sous chef.

He’s not famous yet, but you never know. It’s good to be a sous chef at Gramercy Tavern.

Next up, we have Rita Jammet, former co-owner of La Caravelle, with her twin sons Nic, on the left (her right) and Patrick.

Nic is a partner in a successful little fast-casual salad-and-frozen-yogurt chain in the Washington, D.C., area called Sweetgreen. Very big on local, organic, sustainable stuff, including using recycled materials to build their stores. Their yogurt truck is a supergreen hybrid. They hired someone special just to source the best products, and called her their sourceress. Cute, right?

Patrick works for one of those high end beverage companies that sells tea drinks. I’m afraid I have forgotten which one.

From the Chicago contingent, pictured here are best chef in the Great Lakes region nominee Bruce Sherman from North Pond (sporting the beard), and Paul Kahan, who has already won that award.

In fact, this year that award went to one of his underlings, Koren Grieveson. This is what Paul (@PaulKahan) tweeted about that: ”First time ever that someone wearing a jb medal said I was their mentor. Feels pretty great.“

Staying with the Chicago contingent, we have two other previous Beard Award Winners.

On the left is Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, etc., and on the right is Tony Mantuano, chef-owner of Spiaggia.

I’m embarrassed to say that I have never eaten Rick Bayless’s food, except for a bit of salsa served at a cooking demonstration at the St. Helena campus of The Culinary Institute of America.

I’ve eaten at Spiaggia, though it was years ago. It was the first, and possibly the last, place I ever had Ohio wine — not that it was bad, you just don’t see a lot of Ohio wine out there. It was a flinty Pinot Grigio.

Heading down south, we have this year’s best chef in the Southeast winner, Sean Brock, executive chef of McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C, who was just beside himself that he’d won. Shocked, really, and I’m not sure why.

Next to him is New Orleans chef Susan Spicer. I don’t know if she and Sean actually know each other. I pulled them together in the press room for this picture.

Here’s Michel Nischan and his son Chris.

I met Michel, oh, probably in 1999, when I was a new puppy at NRN and he was the chef at Heartbeat at the W Hotel in Midtown East. It was the first of the five Ws that are now in New York City, and Heartbeat was ahead of its time in offering food that was good for you without tasting like you were missing something.

He’s currently the chef-owner of The Dressing Room in Westport, Conn.

Chris and I had never met before.

Finally, from DC, we have pastry chef David Guas, who was with the DC Coast restaurants for years but now has his own company, damgoodsweet. Next to him is Ann McCarthy, whom I met years ago when she worked at Saveur. But now she’s José Andrés’ communications director.


Anonymous said...

~~Alain Sailhac and Chef Bouley - both legendary~~
Your blog is very kind about the event. A nice mix of what it really stands for - or what it could stand for - besides all the commercialism that goes into it. The United States should recognize that artisans should be commended - like a 'National Treasure' in Japan or the Meilleur Ouvrier in France - it's too bad the Beard Foundation does not yet reflect these institutions - maybe in it's next sequal...

Jennifer said...

I didn't even realize there was a Star Wars theme. Ha! Had a fab time *not* hearing the awards with you! See you in the press room next year!

Rachel Zemser said...

Bret, great coverage of the event.

Thanks for the interview (I will be posting that interview and several othes as soon as I edit the way to long footage down to 10 minutes so i can upload on youtube).

And i agree with Jennifer, it was great NOT hearing the awards in the press room this year! Viva la champagne, cocktails, caviar and artisan cheese!


Thomas Crampton said...

Bret: Thanks for the reference to that article. Going to cover a gourmet wedding was yet another tough assignment my editors at the IHT/NYT saddled me with. (Earlier that year they sent me to cover the party scene at the Cannes Film Festival, which came shortly after covering the war in Sudan. A highly varied year of coverage!)

Bret Thorn said...

My pleasure, Tom, thanks to you I could have an intelligent conversation with Ms. Bartelme Bouley about her wedding.