Back of the House

Bourdain & Co. Give Their Picks for Beard Chef NYC

This year’s race for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in New York City (or, as we like to think of it, the Division 1A title) is a fierce one. We spoke to a mix of chefs, critics, and bloggers, and here are their responses. Not all are voting, but we think that, as a whole, they’re pretty representative of what we’ve been hearing from within the New York restaurant community. The nominees, just to remind you, are Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, Terrance Brennan of Picholine, David Chang of Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Wylie Dufresne of wd-50, and Gabriel Kreuther of the Modern. (Remember, Chang is being judged solely on Ssäm Bar, not for his work at Momofuku Ko.)

Tony Bourdain: “David Chang. As a reflection of importance in last couple of years? No contest. All great chefs (and in many ways, others are “better” by conventional standards). But Chang has changed the face of dining in New York, innovated a great leap forward, and created a unique and compelling business model that will undoubtedly inspire others in positive ways. Plus, he likes pork.”

Tanya Wenman Steele, Epicurious: “I’m a judge on the restaurant-chef committee and did vote for one of these guys. Without giving away my vote, I would say this: Two of the nominated chefs have pushed at the forefront of cuisine, not just in New York, but globally, and have spawned imitated gastronomic movements. The other three chefs have long been standard bearers and have helped inform and lead the next generation of chefs — again, not just in New York City, but globally. Without those latter three paving the way, the other two would not have already achieved all they have.”

A major national food critic who shall remain anonymous: “Tough call, because three of them deserve it. I can’t believe Brennan has never won this award, because he’s been so good for so long; I’m afraid that Chang is going to win it — he’s won enough already — because Ssäm Bar is such a spectacular restaurant; and I’d love to see Dufresne win it, because he’s one of the great human beings on earth. My vote: Brennan.”

Steve Plotnicki, Opinionated About Dining: “Chang: I’m torn between him and Dufresne, but Chang’s Bo Ssäm, which could be the single greatest casual dish ever invented by an American chef, tips it in his favor”

Pavia Rosati, Daily Candy: “If they’d give me a ballot, I’d vote for Terrence Brennan. Two reasons: He recreated Picholine to dazzling effect, phoenix-style. And I love when classics show young punks how to do new the right way. It’s like Dylan winning Grammys.”

Suvir Suran, Devi: “Either Gabriel Kreuther, whose Modern is a great mix of old and new, dining that is at harmony with the physical setting, accessible yet evocative, or Terrance Brennan, a time-tested cuisine and cuisinier (is that a word?). Playful and surprising, but always comforting and full of warmth.”

Bill Telepan, Telepan: “Tough one to pick. I think these are the winners for the next five years. I am not going to settle on one.”

Bourdain & Co. Give Their Picks for Beard Chef NYC