Beard’s Best Chef Nominees Spill Beans

The Beard nominees for New York Citys Best Chef know that theres more to the award than who makes the best plate of spaghetti. Looking back at previous years in which he was nominated, Picholines Terrance Brennan says, Our customers were always loyal, but because I wasnt playing the game, we were under the foodie radar. Being friends with the [Beard] committee helps I imagine if you know some people, your odds are probably better.

Another fixture on the fine-dining scene, Chanterelles David Waltuck says that novelty sometimes has undue influence on the Beard voters, a group that frequently includes food writers awed by brand-new taste sensations. There are a lot of people that know theyre eating something theyve never had before, says Waltuck. But there are not as many people who, having eaten something similar a number of times, can say its the best of its kind theyve had.

Even chefs known for being cutting-edge can feel that theyre at a disadvantage. Wylie Dufresne of wd-50, asked if the award would be a vindication of modern cooking (a.k.a. molecular gastronomy, a term Dufresne isnt fond of) replies pointedly, The ceremony is what it is. Its not our contemporaries who are voting. Its been good for business already.

Earlier: Time to Fill Out Our James Beard Brackets