Topolobampo was named the nation's outstanding restaurant and Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr was honored as the outstanding restaurateur at the 27th annual James Beard Foundation Awards, the restaurant industry's version of the Oscars. True to the parallel, the ceremony last night in Chicago abounded in glitz, star power and surprises befitting the Academy Awards. A large number of the winners also thanked the immigrants who worked alongside them, while commenting on the current political climate.
The awards recognize (and can provide a career boost to) the winners. Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of the ABC TV show "Modern Family" hosted the 2017 edition of the awards at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House. Social media-inspired “Eat Share Like” was the theme of the evening, with live tweets flashing on the screen throughout the three-hour ceremony.
Here’s who went home with a James Beard medal in the major categories after last night’s ceremony:
Outstanding Restaurant: Topolobampo, Chicago
Chef-owner Rick Bayless accepted the award, saying, “Restaurants are ensembles … there are technical ensembles and heart-and-soul ensembles, but Topolobampo is the latter. We bring the heart and soul of Mexico to Chicago … there’s the spirit of an immigrant in all of us.”
Outstanding Restaurateur: Stephen Starr; Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia
“I waited a long time for this award,” said Starr in his acceptance speech. “I didn’t want to hear my daughter Sarah say again, ‘Dad, you’re still No. 1 to me.’” Starr also thanked the 5,000 employees who work for him, many of them immigrants, for keeping is restaurants running.
Best New Restaurant: Le Coucou, New York City
Starr also racked up an award in this category, partnering with chef Daniel Rose to launch this New York City newcomer. Said Rose, “Thank you to our customers who keep making us the great restaurant we apparently are. This is a testament to a lot of improbable circumstances.”
Outstanding Chef: Michael Solomonov; Zahav, Philadelphia
The Israeli-born chef mentioned that this is the second time he is accepting a Beard Award on Israeli Independence Day. “Happy birthday, Israel,” he told the audience. “We as chefs can sometimes make statements better than our elected officials,” he added.
Outstanding Service: Blue Hill at Stone Barns; Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
Dan Barber, chef-owner of the restaurant, shared the award and stage with Philippe Gouze, his manager, saying this award belonged to him. “Chefs’ fame seems to have no bounds, yet the craft of service has become strangely devalued."
Here's a complete list of last night's winners.