James Beard Awards

On the Road with Michael Carlson and the Schwa Crew

Michael Carlson with his sous chef Gaetano Nardulli.
Michael Carlson with his sous chef Gaetano Nardulli. Photo: Helen Rosner

We heard a rumor yesterday that Schwa’s Michael Carlson had canceled all the reservations at his restaurant and was flying out to this year’s James Beard Awards, perhaps to pick up an award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. Turns out he did leave the restaurant, but instead of fly, he packed into a car with four other guys and drove the whole way. “We generally don’t get out to do stuff like this. It’s a little overwhelming, to be totally honest.” He didn’t end up winning, but he certainly got into the spirit, “It’s the most amazing thing ever. I’m going to start tackling all the chefs that I want to talk to. I’m afraid they’re going to kick us out of here.” He didn’t get kicked out, but his trip out to New York did sound an awful lot like a crazed Jack Kerouac novel.

We actually caravaned out here - we drove. It was a little last minute. We left after a night’s work, man, it’s five guys - the entire staff, packed in the car, we brought a bunch of beer to bring to our friends. We were all smelly. It was actually a disaster. I’m hoping I can catch a flight back and leave these suckers behind. We drove through the night, we took shifts. Everyone who wasn’t on their shift slept. I didn’t want to drive – I was like, “Come on, I don’t want to drive, I’ll fund the effort, I don’t want to drive.” But I took the last leg.

The only time the chefs stopped was for food, though they weren’t really sure where: “We stopped for breakfast at a place in Pennsylvania. The Catskills? the Poconos? It was cool, man, it was unique. We didn’t plan it ahead of time, and that beats anything else.”

On the Road with Michael Carlson and the Schwa Crew