Monday, March 24, 2008

Beard Handicapping ’08

March 24

The James Beard Foundation has announced its list of nominees for its annual awards, which people in the restaurant world take quite seriously. Awards are strange, though. The results are capricious, the meaning unclear. Nonetheless, I shall now take a shot at predicting the winners.
I did this last year and ended up getting seven out of 19 right, which is a failing grade except in baseball, when I would have batted 367.
I have made my predictions in boldface. They are my predictions, not my votes. I’m not saying that I would be happy about these results, but they are the people and restaurants I expect to win.
I’m only predicting in restaurant and chef categories. For a full list of nominees, visit
Here now, my predictions for the 2008 James Beard Foundation Awards:

[March 26 update: Oops, the Beard Foundation forgot that Gary Danko won the outstanding service award in 2006, so they took that restaurant off the list and replaced it with La Grenouille in New York. Also, I’ve been asked why I picked who I picked and if I’m crazy, so I have added reasons for my predictions]:

Best new restaurant:
Anthos in New York
Central Michel Richard in Washington, D.C.
Fearing’s at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas
Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles
Osteria in Philadelphia
reason: I think the star effect of Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton will put it over the top

“Rising Star Chef” (aged 30 years or younger):
Nate Appleman of A 16 in San Francisco
Sean Brock of McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C.
Gavin Kaysen of Café Boulud in New York
Johnny Monis of Komi in Washington, D.C.
Matt Molina of Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles
Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon in Portland, Ore.
reason: see above

Outstanding chef:
Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago
José Andres of Minibar in Washington, D.C.
Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York
Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles
Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Ala.
reason: All of these chefs are very highly regarded, but Grant has been battling cancer. To call his victory a sympathy vote would make it sound like he’s not deserving, so let’s call it a hero vote.

Outstanding restaurant (these tend to go to old, well-established restaurants with a lot of history):
Boulevard in San Francisco
The Slanted Door in San Francisco
Gramercy Tavern in New York
Jean Georges in New York
Campanile in Los Angeles
reason: This one is always tricky, because more than any of the other awards it seems to be based on sentiment and a sense of the nominee’s place in the restaurant firmament. But I’ve never heard an unkind word said about Gramercy Tavern.

Outstanding pastry chef:
Gina DePalma of Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York
Pichet Ong of P*ONG in New York
Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco
Mindy Segal of HotChocolate in Chicago
Nicole Plue of Redd in Yountville, Calif.
reason: combination of name recognition of Gina herself and Batali star power

Outstanding wine service:
Aureole in Las Vegas
Picasso in Las Vegas
Bin 36 in Chicago
Eleven Madison Park in New York
Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn.
reason: Blackberry Farm gets nominated often enough in enough different categories (it was nominated for both best chef and best service last year). It just feels like this is its year.

Outstanding restaurateur:
Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali in New York
Tom Douglas in Seattle
Richard Melman in Chicago
Wolfgang Puck in Los Angeles
Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York
Reason: Jean-Georges' restaurants are the most high-end in this group, for the most part, and I think Beard judges still have a weakness for that.

Outstanding wine and spirits professional:
Dale DeGroff of Beverage Alcohol Resource in New York
Merry Edwards of Merry Edwards Wines in Sebastopol, Calif.
David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards in McMinnville, Ore.
Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colo.
Terry Theise of Terry Theise Estate Selections in Silver Spring, Md.
Reason: Frasca’s hot.

Outstanding service:
Canlis in Seattle
La Grenouille in New York
Spiaggia in Chicago
Vetri in Philadelphia
Terra in St. Helena, Calif.
Reason: Canlis has a reputation for being classic and likeable that I think will appeal to judges.

My picks for the regional awards, except for New York which is the market I live in and thus the one I know best, are based purely on gut reaction having to do with name recognition and general reputation. In the case of New York, people in the food world here can’t help themselves — if there’s an award, they’ll give it to David Chang.

Pacific (California and Hawaii):
Douglas Keane of Cyrus in Healdsburg, Calif.
David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif.
David Myers of Sona in Los Angeles
Craig Stoll of Delfina in San Francisco
Michael Tusk of Quince in San Francisco.

Mid-Atlantic (including Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia):
Cathal Armstong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va.
Jose Garces of Amada in Philadelphia
Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama in Hoboken, N.J.
Cindy Wolf of Charleston in Baltimore
Eric Ziebold of CityZen in Washington, D.C.

Midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin):
Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery in Minneapolis
Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City
Tim McKee of La Belle Vie in Minneapolis
Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis
Adam Siegal of Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee

Great Lakes (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio):
Graham Elliot Bowles of Avenues in Chicago
Carrie Nahabedian of Naha in Chicago
Bruce Sherman of North Pond in Chicago
Michael Symon of Lola in Cleveland
Alex Young of Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich.

New York City:
Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern
Terrance Brennan of Picholine
David Chang of the Momofuku restaurants
Wylie Dufresne of WD-50
Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern.

Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York excluding New York City, Rhode Island and Vermont):
Patrick Connolly of Radius in Boston
Rob Evans of Hugo’s in Portland, Maine
Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine
Michael Leviton of Lumière in West Newton, Mass.
Marc Orfaly of Pigalle in Boston.

Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming):
Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen in Portland, Ore.
Maria Hines of Tilth in Seattle
Holly Smith of Café Juanita in Kirkland, Wash.
Ethan Stowell of Union in Seattle
Jason Wilson of Crush in Seattle

Southeast (Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia):
Hugh Acheson of Five and Ten in Athens, Ga.
Arnaud Berthelier of The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta
Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta
Mike Lata of Fig in Charleston, S.C.
Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill in Charleston, S.C.

Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah):
Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas
Sharon Hage of York Street in Dallas
Ryan Hardy of Montagna in Aspen, Colo.
Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colo.
Andrew Weissman of Restaurant La Rêve in San Antonio, Texas.

South (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi):
Zach Bell of Café Boulud in Palm Beach, Fla.
Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s in Miami
John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.
Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Ala.
Douglas Rodriguez of Ola in Miami.


Anonymous said...

As a Philadelphia Foodie I'm so tired of Philly being overlooked merely because of it's proximity to NYC, that I hope at least some of your bets are wrong. Fourth largest city in America with great chefs but since LA and Manhattan have better press they come in first and Philly chefs and restaurants always become honorable mentions. Really annoying. Might be nice if things weren't always based on the weight of a name, but -- heaven forbid -- taste and merit!

Bret Thorn said...

As I said, Harry, these are who I think will win, not necessarily who I’d like to win. Philadelphia is, indeed, a great city with excellent food — and not just for its cheesesteak, although if I lived there I'd weigh 350 pounds because I’d eat one of those puppies every day.
You might recall that the year Marc Vetri won the Beard Award for the best chef in the Mid-Atlantic, he didn’t even attend the ceremony. I heard shortly thereafter that he didn’t come because he had no expectation of winning. I have no way of knowing whether that’s true or not, but if it is, it illustrates your point. At any rate, best of luck to all the Philadelphia nominees.