Everyone was in a great mood at last night’s James Beard Foundation Awards — or at least, they were determinedly working on getting there (Drew Nieporent meandered around with a water glass full of gin). Timothy Hollingsworth took home the evening’s first award, for Rising Star Chef. ("I’ll definitely show it to them," he told us about sharing his medal with the rest of the French Laundry kitchen. "Maybe they can touch it.") It was a good thing everyone was so happy, since the awards themselves lacked in drama: not a single dark horse took home a win, and Keith McNally’s daughter Isabelle accepted the Outstanding Restaurateur award on his behalf. (Grub Street went 4 for 8 in our predictions.)
Once the awards were over — with Outstanding Chef winner Tom Colicchio aptly noting the similarity between his and James Beard’s hairstyles — the gala tasting began, though after barely an hour of bite-size portions of duck pastrami and smoked duck breast, the crowds started thinning as chefs and friends-of-chefs took off for the after-parties. Revelers at Marea were met at the door with flutes of Champagne and plates of pasta, and Ma Peche’s pork-rind-fueled frat party devolved, inevitably, into kegstands and a riotous round of flipcup. But it was at Eleven Madison Park, home of newly crowned "Best Chef, New York" Daniel Humm, where everyone wound up at the end: The ersatz dance floor was packed, the bar was a free-for-all, and Daniel Boulud (who picked up Outstanding Restaurant for Daniel) dancing on a table, was spraying everyone (including Thomas Keller) with Champagne.
And now, the winners.
Restaurant and Chef Awards
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Chef/Partner: Michael White
Partner: Chris Cannon
OUTSTANDING CHEF AWARD
OUTSTANDING PASTRY CHEF AWARD
OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT AWARD
Chef/Owner: Daniel Boulud
Owner: Joel Smilow
OUTSTANDING RESTAURATEUR AWARD
Balthazar, Lucky Strike, Minetta Tavern, Morandi, Pastis, Pravda, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar
OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD
Chef/Owner: Grant Achatz
OUTSTANDING WINE AND SPIRITS PROFESSIONAL AWARD
John Shafer and Doug Shafer
OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE AWARD
Wine Director: Bernard Sun
Restaurant Gary Danko
Wine Director: Jeff Anderson
RISING STAR CHEF OF THE YEAR AWARD
The French Laundry
BEST CHEFS IN AMERICA
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)
Eleven Madison Park
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY STATE, RI, VT)
Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier
Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Best Chef: Pacific (CA, HI)
Los Gatos, CA
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS)
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX, UT)
Claude Le Tohic
Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees
Chef/Owner, Dooky Chase Restaurant, New Orleans
Leah Chase has lived in Louisiana her entire life, moving to New Orleans when she was 14 years old. Her first job out of school was at the Oriental Laundry in the French Quarter. A week later, Chase was hired by the Colonial Restaurant on Chartres Street and she has been in the restaurant industry ever since. Chase married a musician whose family owned the Dooky Chase Restaurant. Once her children were old enough to attend school, Chase began to work at the restaurant three days a week. She started out as a hostess, but she was soon redecorating the restaurant and working as its chef. She eventually revamped the menu to reflect her Creole background. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of Dooky Chase’s 5th Ward location in 2005, the restaurant community got together to host a benefit in 82-year-old Chase’s honor. The guests raised $40,000, and Dooky Chase reopened in 2007 mostly for take-out food and special events. Chase is also a cooking show host and cookbook author.
Jessica B. Harris
Author and Historian, NYC
Jessica B. Harris is the author of eight critically acclaimed cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African diaspora. A culinary historian and tenured professor, she has lectured on the subject at numerous institutions and colleges throughout the United States and abroad. As a journalist Harris served as a restaurant reviewer for The Village Voice and has written extensively about the culture of Africa in the Americas, particularly the foodways, for publications ranging from Essence (where she was travel editor from 1977-1980) to German Vogue. She has also written for many major food magazines including Gourmet and Food & Wine. Harris has been a national board member of the American Institute of Wine & Food, a founding member and board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and a board member of the Caribbean Culinary Federation.
Paul C. P. McIlhenny
President and CEO, McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, LA
Paul C. P. McIlhenny is the fourth generation of McIlhennys to produce Tabasco® pepper sauce, an American staple found in countless kitchens and restaurants throughout the United States and abroad. As were his forebears, he is directly involved in overseeing and maintaining the high quality of all products under the 142-year-old Tabasco® brand. McIlhenny grew up in New Orleans and has lived and cooked on Avery Island for more than 40 years. He is an accomplished fish and wild game cook and counts as friends such food-world luminaries as Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pépin, Ella Brennan, Pierre Franey, Paul Prudhomme, Mimi Sheraton, William Rice, and the late R.W. Apple, Jr. McIlhenny is the co-author of The 125th Anniversary Tabasco® Cookbook and a contributor to Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen and Tabasco®: An Illustrated History. He is also a member of the Société des Escargots Orléanais of New Orleans and the New Orleans Chapitre of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, and serves on the Louisiana Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation, as well as on the board of the America’s WETLAND Foundation.
Founder and CEO, Rockwell Group, NYC
David Rockwell grew up in Chicago, Deal, New Jersey, and Guadalajara, Mexico. When he was a child, his mother, a dancer and choreographer, would cast him in community repertory productions. He brought his passion for theater, eye for color, and the spectacle of Mexico to his architecture studies at Syracuse University and, later, to his firm, Rockwell Group. Based in New York City, the group specializes in culture, hospitality, retail, theater, and film design. Recent restaurant projects include Nobu and Nobu 57 (New York and worldwide), Pod (Philadelphia), Roppongi Hills (Tokyo), and Maze (London). Rockwell is Chairman of the Board at the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) and is on the boards of the Public Theater and Citymeals-on-Wheels. He received a Presidential Design Award for his Grand Central Terminal renovation in 2000.
L. Timothy Ryan
President, Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY
Tim Ryan graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1977 and was the first alumnus and faculty member to rise through the ranks to become the institution’s president. As the CIA’s fifth president, Ryan has been an integral part in the American food movement, launching several new programs including the world’s first bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts and baking & pastry arts management, a highly successful publishing program, and award-winning videos and television shows. He has also dramatically expanded the college’s continuing education programs.
Chef/Owner, Bayona, New Orleans
Susan Spicer began her cooking career at the Louis XVI Restaurant in New Orleans in 1979. After a four-month stint at the restaurant, Spicer lived in Paris and California, but eventually came back to New Orleans, where she opened Bistro at Maison deVille at the Hotel Maison deVille in 1986. In the spring of 1990, Spicer and Regina Keever opened Bayona in a 200-year-old cottage in the French Quarter. From 1997 to 1999, Spicer owned and operated Spice, Inc, a specialty market with take-out food, cooking classes, and a bakery. In 2000, Spicer and three partners opened Herbsaint, a casual restaurant in the Warehouse district of New Orleans. She is a recipient of numerous awards, including the 1993 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast. Spicer is also a cookbook author and an occasional judge on Iron Chef America.
America’s Classics Awards
Presented by The Coca-Cola Company
Restaurants with timeless appeal, beloved in their regions for quality food that reflects the character of their community. Establishments must have been in existence at least 10 years and be locally owned.
Al’s French Frys
1251 Williston Road, South Burlington, VT
Owners: Bill Bissonette and Lee Bissonette
Founded by Al and Genevieve Rusterholz in the late 1940s, Al’s French Frys was originally housed in a small hut, open to the elements. Many Chittenden Countians encountered Al’s French Frys stand at the Champlain Valley Fair, where they earned a reputation that has endured for more than a half-century.
Al’s is now owned by the Bissonette family, headed by Bill Bissonette, who revealed part of the restaurant’s secret when he told a local paper that he starts with Idaho or California russets and fries them twice in a combination of beef tallow and soy bean oil at between 300 and 400 degrees for a total of about seven minutes.
There are always lines at Al’s, night and day. You can order a pint, or the vastly more popular quart size. The pleasure of uttering the words “And a quart of fries with that,” is one of the chief charms of Al’s.
The fries boast a dark and crackly exterior. Creamy white potato fluff lurks within. Al’s fries are a benchmark and a bulwark against devolution, in a world where chefs who should know better resort to frozen, cotton-flannel fries, or moan about what a pain and torment it is to cook French fries from scratch.
—Alison Cook, Restaurant Critic, Houston Chronicle
The Bright Star
304 19th St. North, Bessemer, AL
Owners: Jimmy Koikos and Nicky Koikos
A clump of feta, tucked in a salad of iceberg and cucumbers. A stipple of oregano on a broiled snapper fillet. At the Bright Star in Bessemer, Alabama, an old steel town southwest of Birmingham, the vestiges of Greece are few.
Greek immigrants built the Bright Star, a vintage dining hall of intricately patterned tile floors, nicotine-patinaed woodwork, WPA-era murals of the old country, and brass chandeliers.
The Bright Star opened in 1907. Descendants of Bright Star founding fathers—Tom Bonduris and his cousin Bill Koikos, natives of the farming village of Peleta in the mountainous Peloponnesus region —still work the floor. Jimmy Koikos, a septuagenarian, and brother Nicky, seven years his junior, are in charge now.
The menu is an honest—and very old—fusion, Greek meets Southern, as interpreted by African American cooks: fried red snapper throats, house-cut from whole Gulf fish, are on the menu. Okra in a cornmeal crust, too. And field peas with snaps.
In the Birmingham area, many of the best barbecue and meat-and-three restaurants are Greek owned. And the Bright Star is the oldest and most storied of the bunch.
—John T. Edge, Director, Southern Foodways Alliance
3259 E 95th Street, Chicago
Owners: The Kotlick and Toll Families
Chicago’s 95th Street Bridge, which spans the Calumet River on the city’s South Side, is known for two things: One, in the movie The Blues Brothers, Elwood demonstrated the capabilities of his new car by jumping the bridge. Two, it’s the home of Calumet Fisheries, a stand-alone hutch that has been frying and smoking seafood since 1948, when brothers-in-law Sid Kotlick and Len Toll opened the place.
To this day, the Kotlick and Toll families run the joint. It’s strictly carryout. No seating, no bathroom, no credit cards. And, if you believe the ominous street sign, no parking.
The place draws a working-class, melting-pot crowd, and a fair number of amateur fishermen. (The murky Calumet is a good place to find bluegill.) Fried perch, smelts, and frogs’ legs are big here, but they also bring in scallops, crab, catfish, and oysters.
The fried stuff is very good, but what you really want is the smoked fish, smoldering in the bunker-like smokehouse around back. Salmon steaks, shrimp, chubs, and trout, all kissed with wood and cooked with care.
—Phil Vettel, Restaurant Critic, Chicago Tribune
PO Box 60, Gustavus, AK
Owners: JoAnn and David Lesh
Three generations of the Lesh family have welcomed guests to this farmhouse at the edge of a meadow overlooking Alaska’s Icy Strait.
Jack and Sally Lesh started the inn in 1965, operating it as a drop-in restaurant, grocery store, and hotel. For many years it was also the town’s weather station, airline counter, and radio and telephone contact. From 1976-79 their daughter Sal and husband Tom McLaughlin continued these services, supporting the crew building nearby Glacier Bay Lodge.
Dave and JoAnn Lesh took over as innkeepers in 1980 and raised their three sons and daughter there. Over the years, the town has acquired power, phones, and city status allowing the Gustavus Inn to rely more on serving tourists to Glacier Bay National Park during the summer months.
Supper is served family style and usually features local catches like Dungeness crab, salmon, halibut, and sablefish, as well as produce from the Inn’s munificent garden. Despite the challenges of a short growing season, that garden produces berries, potatoes, rhubarb, myriad greens, and edible flowers.
In addition to just-caught seafood, the Inn is known for sourdough pancakes with homemade spruce tip syrup and Halibut Caddy Ganty, often called Halibut Olympia, a rich mix of fish cooked with onions, sour cream, and mayonnaise.
—Providence Cicero, Restaurant Critic and Food Writer, Seattle Times
Mary & Tito’s Cafe
2711 Fourth St. N.W., Albuquerque, NM
Owners: Mary Gonzales and Antoinette Knight
Carne adovada—long-braised pork in red chile sauce—might be the most characteristic of New Mexico’s robust and deceptively simple dishes. New Mexicans argue the merits of various carne adovada preparations statewide, but aficionados nearly always rank Mary & Tito’s tops. The Gonzales family serves the fork-tender meat as the centerpiece of a plate, in overstuffed burritos, and also as a filling for enchiladas and empanadas.
Native New Mexicans and husband and wife team Mary and Tito Gonzales started their adobe cafe just north of downtown Albuquerque in 1963. Tito was the original cook and creator of the recipes. When he passed away, Mary hired more cooks and continued to run the front of the house, oversee the business, and raise their family.
From the worn but clean booths, tables, and a handful of counter stools, diners gaze over family and patron photos, the kids’ and grandkids’ sports trophies, and other mementos of family accomplishments.
Now past 80, Mary still comes in daily to greet old friends and new, while her daughter Antoinette manages the cafe. Other daughters help out too, and various grandchildren wait tables when they’re not in school.
—Cheryl Jamison, Cookbook Author and Food Writer
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients: Ariane and Michael Batterberry
Legendary leaders in their field, Ariane and Michael Batterberry have founded two milestone national food magazines: Food Arts, the influential, award-winning publication for the restaurant and hotel trades that has won a number of the coveted Folio
Gold “Eddie” B2B awards, and Food & Wine, a leading consumer publication. Pioneers in electronic food publishing as well, they created the top rated computerized “magazine” Dining In for Time Inc. in the early 1980s. Singly or together, they are the authors of 18 books on food, art, and social history, and they have contributed a quarterly food trends column to U.S.A. Today. The Batterberrys’ awards and citations include both the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who in Food & Beverage in America and Editors of the Year, the International Food & Beverage Forum’s Hall of Fame, Distinguished Restaurants of
North America (DiRoNA) Honorary Hall of Fame, the Culinary Institute of America’s Masters of Hospitality award, and the Madrid Fusión award, presented by the mayor of Madrid, for having propelled the course of the American food revolution. Michael has appeared often on national and international TV as a commentator on culinary and restaurant business trends and has performed as introductory host to the Public Television series Rising Star Chefs.
Humanitarian of the Year: Wayne Kostroski Presented by Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism
Wayne Kostroski founded the Taste of the NFL in 1992 in an effort to create a national platform that addresses the needs of the hungry and homeless by raising awareness and money through special events and programs. Through the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers, the Taste of the NFL’s Party With A Purpose event takes place each year on the eve of the Super Bowl. At the ticketed Party With A Purpose, thirty-two of the finest chefs from around the country (one from each NFL city) serve up their signature specialties alongside a current, Hall of Fame, or alumni player from each of the NFL teams, with 100 percent of the event’s proceeds going to support local and national hunger organizations. Since its inception, the Taste of the NFL has distributed in excess of $9 million. The organization has also drafted a dozen NFL teams to create and execute events in their own cities to benefit local food banks; these events have generated more than $4 million to date.