Last night, O Ya’s Tim Cushman brought home a big win for Boston at the James Beard awards. (For the full list, which also includes a wine win for No. 9 Park, see here.) Also nominated in the Best Chef: Northeast category was Coppa’s Jamie Bissonnette, thought by many to be the odds-on favorite. (Even Globe critic Devra First, congratulating Cushman on the win, tweeted “Thought it was gonna be @Jamiebiss’s moment.”) So is everyone tickled for O Ya? Cushman’s triumph reminds us of an article written in Boston magazine back in 2008, titled “The Knives Come Out,” in which many local chefs (including Bissonnette’s colleague, Ken Oringer) criticized the rising Cushman for unseemly snooping.
From the Boston piece: “’He’s been deceiving people for years,’ says Ken Oringer, who refuses even to step foot in the place [O Ya]. According to Oringer, Cushman spent the two years before opening O Ya scoping out his sashimi bar, Uni. “Twice a week he would call and ask to have menus faxed to him. We thought, ‘Hmm…this guy’s a little weird.’ I mean religiously, every Friday, he came in.’”
There’s more: “Cushman, says Oringer, would arrive by himself and sit at the bar, inches from where the sushi chef stood preparing the restaurant’s intricate raw-fish masterpieces. Eventually, his wife would join him. ‘He wanted to know what went into every dish,’ says Oringer.” According to the piece, Cushman told people that he was an out-of-work musician. (Cushman was quoted in his Beard acceptance speech as saying “be a student of the world’s food,” which might take on deeper meaning after reading the ‘08 article.)
Which makes us wonder how Cushman’s win is sitting this morning, and if the Boston culinary community is reveling in his triumph. Maybe Cushman doesn’t care. Maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe everyone’s just happy that Boston took home a couple of wins. As for us, we’ll happily continue to dine at Coppa … and Uni … and O Ya, too, when we can afford it.