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James Beard awards night

The restaurant community came out in force on Monday night, May 9th, for the James Beard Foundation’s annual awards gala honoring the industry’s best. Big name chefs Tom Colicchio, Ming Tsai and Traci Des Jardins—with a little help from Emeril Lagasse—hosted the event at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

Some highlights:

  • Emeril stated that he had a lot in common with James Beard. Both learned to cook from their mothers; both enjoyed being mentors and teachers; and both studied performing arts before they got into cooking—Emeril played the drums and Beard sang opera.
  • Women scored high, with five sporting the shiny medal around their necks at the end of the ceremony.
  • New York City restaurants garnered the most rewards (six), but relatively small Portland, Ore., took home two.
  • There was a tie for Best Chef: Southwest, with two chefs sharing the honor.
  • Wine educator Kevin Zraly, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award, bounded to the stage and proceeded to do eight pushups—following actor Jack Palance’s lead when he accepted the Oscar for City Slickers back in 1992.

By the time the last award was given 3½ hours later, hungry attendees rushed the reception tables, where chefs from around the country handed out tasting portions of dishes that reflected this year’s theme, “The Ultimate Melting Pot.”

Here are the winners, with comments from many on their win:

Outstanding Restaurant
Eleven Madison Park

New York City
Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality Group: “I fell in love with the Madison Park neighborhood after reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr; Delmonico had a restaurant there back in the early 1900s. It became the perfect location for a 4-star restaurant.”

Daniel Humm, executive chef: “Going to work every day at Eleven Madison Park never feels like a job.”

Outstanding Chef Award
Jose Andres

Washington, DC
Jose Andres: “America welcomed me with open arms when I came here 21 years ago. I thank America and I thank Ferran Adria for inspiring me…Food is the most powerful thing we have in the 21st century. We have the responsibility to make sure that not only our great nation, but the world will always be better by using food in the right way.”

Outstanding Restaurateur
Richard Melman

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
Ming Tsai accepted, thanking the Melman family.

Outstanding Service
Per Se

New York City
Thomas Keller: “It’s odd for a chef to accept the award for service, but I’m grateful to be standing here as a chef; to be part of this industry.”

Anthony Rudolph, GM: “I wave the banner for everyone on the team, from the COO to our reservationist and everyone in between.”

Outstanding Pastry Chef
Angela Pinkerton

Eleven Madison Park
New York City
“I thank my parents for letting me pursue my dream of becoming a pastry chef and baker, when they really wondered where and how I would end up.”

Best New Restaurant
ABC Kitchen

New York City
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, chef-owner: “This has been the most amazing experience, creating a restaurant that’s focused on sustainability and local sourcing. I even met the chef [Dan Kluger] at the Union Square Greenmarket shopping together.”

Dan Kluger: “We owe everything to the dishwashers, runners, sous chefs, line cooks, GM and the whole ABC team.”

Rising Star Chef of the Year
Gabriel Rucker

Le Pigeon
Portland, OR


Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Alex Young

Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Ann Arbor, MI

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Michael Solomonov

Philadelphia, PA

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Isaac Becker

112 Eatery
Minneapolis, MN

Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)
Gabrielle Hamilton

“I’m totally surprised to win. I think 1997 was the last time a woman won in New York City. It’s a tough place to run a restaurant.”

Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY State, RI, VT)
Tony Maws

Craigie On Main
Cambridge, MA
“We opened in a basement and everyone predicted that no customers would be able to find us. I did my own dishwashing. We finally moved two years ago to a location with a storefront. It’s pretty amazing that we’re standing here now…but there are no losers tonight among my fellow nominees.”

Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Andy Ricker

Pok Pok
Portland, OR
“This award goes to the cooks of Northern Thailand who created the food—we just provide the channel for these great dishes. And we’re lucky that the city of Portland allows restaurants to do what we do.”

Best Chef: Pacific (CA, HI)
Michael Tusk

San Francisco, CA
“I want to thank my GM, who is wearing a great dress tonight. Any single guys out there?”

Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS)
Stephen Stryjewski

New Orleans, LA

"The city of New Orleans really makes it happen…with their constant support of restaurants and chefs.”

Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Andrea Reusing

Chapel Hill, NC
“My brother had the guts to open the restaurant with me and remain my friend even after we dissolved our partnership. He deserves a big thank you.”

Best chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX, UT)
Saipin Chutima

Lotus of Siam
Las Vegas, NV
“I finally feel like a bride and not a bridesmaid.” (Said through an interpreter.)

Tyson Cole

Austin, TX
“I started as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant. When I asked to learn to make sushi, they finally consented, but hid me in the back of the kitchen because I was a white man.”

Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional
Julian P. Van Winkle III

Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
Louisville, KY

Outstanding Wine Service Award
Belinda Chang

The Modern
New York City
“It’s like the greatest thing ever to win an award for pouring glasses of wine for people.”

Outstanding Restaurant Design
Bar Agricole

San Francisco
Design Firm: Aidlin Darling Design

Outstanding Restaurant Graphics
The National Bar & Dining Rooms

New York City
Design Firm: Love and War

Who’s Who of Food  & Beverage in America Inductees
Jonathan Gold, Writer, L.A. Weekly, Los Angeles
Lee Jones, Farmer/Owner, Chef’s Garden, Huron OH
Charles Phan, Chef/Owner, The Slanted Door, San Francisco
Frank Stitt, Chef/Owner, Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL
Nick Valenti, CEO, Patina Group, New York City

America’s Classics
Chef Vola’s, Atlantic City, NJ
Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill, NC
Noriega Restaurant and Hotel, Bakersfield, CA
Le Veau d’Or, New York City
Watts Tea Shop, Milwaukee, WI

Lifetime Achievement
Kevin Zraly

Humanitarian of the Year

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