L.A. Chefs Share James Beard Award Snub Grumbles

Mark Peel is pissed
Mark Peel is pissed Photo: Hadley Tomicki

Finally someone lashes out at the one thing that’s been eating us for weeks: The James Beard Awards totally snubbed Los Angeles! The L.A. Times comes to the defense of our city’s chefs today, pointing out that Suzanne Goin is the only nominee out of 36 who comes from the city this year and that a SoCal restaurant hasn’t won a major award since Valentino won for wine service in 2004. Furthermore, you’d have to go back to 2002 for Sherry Yard’s outstanding pastry chef award for her work at Spago, 2001 for Campanile’s outstanding restaurant win, and 1998 for our last outstanding chef award, which went to Wolfgang Puck for Spago. So which famous toques are steamed over the perceived snub?

Gordon Ramsay, of all the people we never thought we’d agree with, though he does enough shooting in our valleys to know our restaurant scene. Ramsay names Melisse and Providence as worthy nominees not on the list, lamenting that it’s “just ridiculous to be overlooked like that.” Gracias Gordo! Mark Peel goes a step further in hinting at a conspiracy, “It’s hard to look at the finalists and not think that there is an East Coast leaning there.”

But Suzanne Tracht might be hitting the nail on the head by suggesting that, “L.A. needs to be a little more involved in the James Beard Foundation and make more of a presence.” Critic Patrick Kuh agrees, and should know since he’s on the J.B. Foundation Subcommittee that helps choose finalists, that is, after tossing out poor chef nominees from Hamburger Hamlet. Though he can’t drop dimes on the full-process, he explains, “I am a big believer in the restaurants here in L.A. and the level of talent of the L.A. restaurants…Had there been more [L.A. chefs and restaurants] represented in the call to entries they would have had a greater chance.”

Meanwhile, all is not lost. Mozza’s Matt Molina and Providence’s Michael Cimarusti are fearsome nominees for best regional chef and a win for outstanding chef would be nothing less than deserved for Suzanne Goin. But we’d hate to jinx the whole thing, a sentiment that radio-host, restaurant owner, and member of L.A.’s “food elite” Evan Kleiman shares when she says, “now that I’m talking about it we’ll probably never make the list.”

Are the James Beard awards snubbing the Los Angeles restaurant scene? [L.A. Times]
Earlier: Nick Balla is Blown Away by Suzanne Goin’s Arroz Negro [Grub Street]

L.A. Chefs Share James Beard Award Snub Grumbles