Revolutions don’t happen overnight, so we weren’t shocked that only one of the three Beard Award categories reversed tradition. Still, last night’s ceremony officially ushered in a new era in fine dining.
Best Chef NYC went to David Waltuck of Chanterelle, whose cooking has not significantly changed in over a decade, over the cutting-edge work of wd-50’s Wylie Dufresne. Best New Restaurant, as we expected, went to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, an expression of high French haute cuisine of the kind still holding sway on both sides of the Atlantic. It was impossible to think that little Ssäm Bar, one of the other nominees, would hold its own in that category, and yet there was David Chang, called upon the stage as Rising Star Chef. Could Chang’s freewheeling, improvisational food, served up in a late-night bar that doesn’t even have cloth napkins, have triumphed three years ago, or five? We doubt it. Perfect platings, perfect service, and the old apparatus of haute cuisine seem more and more to belong to history.
2007 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards [James Beard Foundation]