Back of the House

Time to Fill Out Our James Beard Brackets

Wylie Dufresne: Beard-bound, says us.
Wylie Dufresne: Beard-bound, says us.haha Photo: Patrick McMullan

The nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.

Illy Best New New York Restaurants

Adam Platt
A Voce: Andrew Carmellini’s Haute Barnyard ode to Haute Italian.
Morimoto: It’s not Nobu in its prime, but on his good days, the Iron Chef is not far off.
Del Posto: I don’t like everything about the place, but you have to respect the cooking.

Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld
Ssäm Bar: A fun, unpretentious place to eat with a multi-personality menu and an allergy to convention; there’s nothing else like it in the world.
Kefi: Technically, it opened too recently to qualify, but this is our favorite Michael Psilakis restaurant so far.
Degustation: The L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon experience without any pretension and at about a quarter of the price.

Josh Ozersky
Del Posto: The best qualities of Babbo, minus the obstreperous chiles and rock music.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon: It’s bound to win, and deserves it. Immediately and spectacularly successful, it showcases the cooking of arguably the world’s top chef.
Ssäm Bar: Talk about turnarounds; it started as an “Asian burrito” place with no sign, and is now the place for gastronomes to go in the late hours.

American Express Best Chef New York

Adam Platt
Terrance Brennan: His resuscitation of Picholine has been a tour de force.
Eric Ripert: If he hasn’t won for Le Bernardin in a while, he should.
Wylie Dufresne: The wd-50 man has never won it. He probably never will, but no locally grown chef deserves it more.

Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld
Cesare Casella: While he keeps the Tuscan flame burning bright at Maremma, Casella devotes himself to virtuous extracurricular pursuits, like breeding heritage beef and pigs, and helming the Italian-cooking program at the French Culinary Institute.
Mark Ladner: At Del Posto, he harnesses the inherently rustic flavors of the food he first cooked at Lupa and channels them into thoughtful, meticulously conceived presentations that are as elegant as the surroundings.
Andy Nusser: Casa Mono might be a Batali-Bastianich production, but Nusser has made the always-bustling, seasonally inspired New York–Spanish spot entirely his own.
Wylie Dufresne: The Lower East Side culinary pioneer has the courage of his experimental convictions, legions of foodie fans, and some of the most original, inspired dishes around.
Zak Pelaccio: From humble beginnings in Williamsburg to the meatpacking district and beyond, Pelaccio has created a niche market for funky Malaysian flavors and a hip new breed of New York fusion — part Chinatown, part outer-borough global, part Greenmarket.

Josh Ozersky
Michael Psilakis: The prodigious feats he’s performed recently at Kefi and Anthos are postscripts to the brilliant menu Psilakis and his boyish chef de cuisine, Jason Hall, created at Dona.
Wylie Dufresne: His nomination seems like a lock, and rightly so: No chef has been more courageously inventive in the last few years.
Gray Kunz: A certifiable genius, going back to his days at Lespinasse, and never yet properly credited for his world-class work at Spice Market and Café Gray.

Gallo of Sonoma Rising Star Chef

Adam Platt
Wesley Genovart: Degustation’s chef is a young master at the delicate, pointillist art of haute bar cooking.
Alex Raij: Thanks to her, real tapas have come, at long last, to Manhattan at Tía Pol.
David Chang: What Nobu did for raw fish, Chang does for offal.

Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld
Andrew Feinberg: Not sure if he’s under 30 (he looks like he could pass) or if he’s even on the Beard radar, but no one has a greater passion and respect for ingredients than the Franny’s pizza man, and isn’t that what Italian cooking is all about?
April Bloomfield: Not sure if she’s under 30 either, and at this point, her cooking may be overshadowed by the phenomenon of the Spotted Pig (which, of course, we love), but she’s a huge talent. Given a less frenzied environment, she’d shine even brighter.
Wesley Genovart: He’s better-looking than Giada de Laurentiis, and he can cook.

Josh Ozersky
David Chang: A stone-cold lock for an award, and rightly so: His two-fisted cookery is brilliant, and his concept of tablecloth execution in a casual setting at Ssäm Bar and Momofuku is changing New York.
Alex Stupak: At 26, he’s now following in Sam Mason’s footsteps at wd-50 as the latest auteur dessert chef on the rise.
Jason Neroni: After our little e-mail contretemps, nothing would make us happier than for Neroni to get the nomination he wants so badly at Porchetta.

Time to Fill Out Our James Beard Brackets