The diversity of America’s restaurant kitchens took center stage at Monday night's politically charged James Beard Foundation Awards, celebrated at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House.
With the #MeToo movement and anti-immigration issues looming large over the black-tie ceremony, the Oscars of the food world honored a large number of women and people of color, including this year’s Outstanding Chef, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in New York City, and Outstanding Pastry Chef, Dolester Miles of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Ala.
Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan won both Best Chef: Northwest for his work at Salare and Best New Restaurant for his much-lauded JuneBaby. He is the first African-American chef to earn the top restaurant honor.
Chef Carla Hall, one of the hosts of ABC’s “The Chew,” served as an enthusiastic emcee of the livestreamed awards show, alternately busting out an impromptu dance to the rhythmic name of Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo restaurant and reminding the crowd of the serious theme of this year’s event: “I rise.”
“I rise for making sure there’s a seat at the table for everyone,” Hall said.
Chef Jose Andres, who received the Humanitarian of the Year medal for his work feeding thousands of Puerto Rico residents following Hurricane Maria last September, said: “I would like to humbly dedicate this honor to the countless men and women, but mostly women, whose service to humanity is often unrecognized.”
Here are the 2018 James Beard Foundation Award winners in the major categories.
Outstanding Restaurant: Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Ala.
The 36-year-old restaurant serves modern Southern cuisine. “One of the reasons we’re all here is we’ve been caught up in the magic … trying to create a little bit of beauty in one’s work,” said Executive Chef Frank Stitt, in accepting the award. “It comes from respect, with our farmers, with our staff, with our guests.”
Best New Restaurant: JuneBaby, Seattle
Edouardo Jordan, who brought most of his restaurant team to the stage to accept the award, dedicated the win to his son: “I want you to dream big, my little star. We’re making history tonight. The future is yours, but don’t forget the past.”
Outstanding Chef: Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune, New York City
The two most nerve-wracking sentences in a chef’s life, Hamilton said, are: “Chef, the health department’s here,” and “Chef, you’ve been nominated for a James Beard Award.”
“I’ve been playing the long game. … It’s been the greatest, greatest party. I love this work,” she said.