The Beard Foundation is taking a battering these days; even on the eve of its big night, its finances are being questioned, and foodies and cooks left and right have had a field day abusing them on the Web. And let’s not forget the huge embezzling scandal that engulfed the organization a couple of years ago. But there’s at least one chef who will speak up for the awards: Andrew Carmellini of A Voce.
“There’s a lot of hate out there for the awards,” says Carmellini, who has won Beard Awards both as Best Chef (NYC) and Rising Star Chef, and whose place is up for Best New Restaurant. “I don’t think there’s anything quite like them. You know, it started off as a very quirky event. Bryan Miller’s band played it, with Drew Nieporent on the washboard. It grew, and the notoriety of it bred resentment and jealousy, and you heard people say all this crazy shit about it — that it was corrupt, that [Beard communications director] Mitchell Davis’s friends had the inside track, and so on. Some people get really bent out of shape about it. But what other forum is there to celebrate the people that try to strive to advance cooking?”
Carmellini also loves the way the awards bring chefs and such together. “To come out the night before and see your restaurant filled with everyone from the industry … that is so cool. Last year there wasn’t a regular, normal person in the room.” Based on our experience of the awards’ after-party last year, that seems about right. Of course, whether the losers of Monday night’s awards will feel as charitably toward the Beard committee remains to be seen.