Good-bye for now, Lincoln Center! The James Beard awards are heading to Chicago
It had been rumored for a while that the James Beard awards, which had previously always been held at Lincoln Center in New York, will be transferring to Chicago. The James Beard Foundation officially announced this morning that Chicago will be the 2015 new host of the prestigious James Beard awards, or the Oscars of the food world.
Next year’s James Beard awards will be held on May 4th 2015 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and it will be the first time the awards have taken place outside New York, widely regarded as the culinary capital of America.
James Beard President Susan Ungaro made the announcement in collaboration with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city of Chicago, Don Welsh, President and CEO of Choose Chicago, and Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association.
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi
James Beard Awards Cancelled Until 2022
The decision came in the wake of Covid-19, in response to a damaged industry and community, in which the Foundation believes the assignment of awards "will do little to further the industry in its current uphill battle."
On 25 September a ceremony will instead be broadcast live via Twitter from the host city of Chicago, as planned, but will only celebrate those previously announced winners in categories such as Lifetime Achievement, and Humanitarian of the Year, forgoing the restaurant and chef categories yet to be announced, including the outstanding chef or restaurant award winners.
We did not come to this decision lightly,” James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach said in a statement. “The uncertainty of this time for our industry is already a hard reality and considering anyone to have won or lost within the current tumultuous hospitality ecosystem does not in fact feel like the right thing to do. In short, an honor which we know is held in high regard, at the moment, feels minor when compared to the dire situation we are in.”
The traditional awards ceremony will not take place next year either, allowing the awards committee and subcommittees time to address any systematic bias by overhauling the policies and procedures for the awards to increase the diversity of the pool of candidates.
In its place, the foundation will hold a ceremony in May, “shining a light on the members of the independent restaurant community who have shown leadership during this crisis, and honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities when it was needed most.”
In 2022, expect the James Beard Awards to return in their "more traditional, but overhauled state.”
James Beard Awards will stay in Chicago through 2021
The so-called Oscars of the food industry were scheduled to end their run here in 2017, at which point cities including San Francisco and New Orleans could snag the ceremony.
When Chicago first hosted the Beards in 2015, it was the first time the awards were held outside of New York City, home to the James Beard Foundation. The Beard Media Awards (previously known as the Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards) will stay in New York for the foreseeable future, said foundation president Susan Ungaro, in Chicago for the fourth annual JBF Taste America tour this weekend.
Keeping the chef and restaurant awards in Chicago was not easy, Emanuel said.
"Even last year there were delegations from New Orleans and San Francisco up here trying to convince the Beard people to make the third year (in Chicago) the last year," said Mayor Emanuel. "There were five people from New Orleans and three or four from San Francisco respectively. All were here trying to convince the leadership of the Beards to end it after three years and move."
How did Chicago keep them?
"In New York, while people liked it, it just wasn't the celebratory grand embrace," said the mayor. "In our city as a whole, we just embraced them."
The James Beard Foundation Awards honor chefs, restaurateurs, beverage professionals and others in the restaurant industry for excellence in their work. A James Beard Award is a distinction that can boost the profile of a restaurant significantly. This year's awards saw three Chicago chefs or restaurants honored. Alinea, helmed by chef Grant Achatz, was named most outstanding restaurant in the country. Curtis Duffy, of Grace, was named best chef Great Lakes. And Land and Sea Dept. netted the award for outstanding design for its work on Cherry Circle Room in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
Chicago's Topolobampo Wins James Beard Foundation Award For Outstanding Restaurant
While viewers were busy gawking the red carpet fashions at the Met Gala, a decidedly different crowd was awaiting the results at the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards being held at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Hosted by Emmy Award-nominated actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the winners in the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories were revealed, as well as a number of special achievement awards presented, including Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Lifetime Achievement, Design Icon, America’s Classics, and Humanitarian of the Year.
Highlights from this year’s list of winners include:
- Best New Restaurant: Le Coucou, NYC
Winners were revealed last night at the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards at Lyric Opera of . [+] Chicago.
The theme of the evening was “Powered by Food” which celebrated the ways in which technology has strengthened our connections through food. The idea being a blog post can spark a trend or sharing dishes that excite or inspire using social media platforms like Instagram.
Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program.
It was particularly exciting to see another Chicago restaurant receive recognition as an outstanding restaurant. Topolobampo has been nominated for outstanding service since 2011 and this year scored Outstanding Restaurant. Last year, Alinea was honored with the outstanding restaurant award. No doubt Chef Rick Bayless was moved by the award and shared with nearly 2,000 guests at the star-studded event that while he's incredibly honored, "restaurants are always ensembles. it's not one person."
All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia.
2017 James Beard Foundation Award Winners
2017 James Beard Foundation Restaurant Design Awards
75 Seats and Under (For the best restaurant design or renovation in North America since January 1, 2014)
Designers: Kristina O’Neal, William Harris, Adam Farmerie, and Greg Bradshaw
Project: SingleThread, Healdsburg, California
76 Seats and Over (For the best restaurant design or renovation in North America since January 1, 2014)
Designers: Will Meyer, Gray Davis, and Katie McPherson
Project: St. Cecilia, Atlanta
Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant, NYC
2017 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards
Best New Restaurant (Presented by True Refrigeration®)
A restaurant opened in the calendar year before the award will be given that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries, or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been working as a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.
Mark Furstenberg, Bread Furst, Washington, D.C.
Outstanding Bar Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits, and/or beer service.
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans
Outstanding Chef (Presented by All-Clad Metalcrafters)
A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Must have been working as a chef for the past five years.
Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia
Outstanding Pastry Chef (Presented by Lavazza)
A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads in a restaurant, and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.
Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, NYC
Outstanding Restaurant (Presented by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water)
A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.
A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Must not have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.
Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants (Le Coucou, Serpico, Upland, and others), Philadelphia
A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Outstanding Wine Program (Presented by Robert Mondavi Winery)
A restaurant in operation five or more years that serves as a standard bearer for excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine.
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
A beer, wine, or spirits professional who has made a significant national impact on the restaurant industry.
Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
Rising Star Chef of the Year (Presented by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water)
A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.
Zachary Engel, Shaya, New Orleans
Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Eligible candidates may be from any kind of dining establishment and must have been working as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years spent in the region.
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde, Chicago
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, MH, NY STATE, RI, VT)
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton and Greg Denton, Ox, Portland, OR
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR)
Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)
Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV)
Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco
2017 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees
- Roger Berkowitz, President and CEO, Legal Sea Foods, Boston
- Suzanne Goin, Multiple James Beard Award-Winning Chef and Restaurateur, A.O.C., Lucques, and Tavern, Los Angeles
- Evan Kleiman, Culinarian Host of KCRW’s Good Food, Los Angeles
- Michel Nischan, Multiple James Beard Award-Winning Chef Founder, President, and CEO, Wholesome Wave, Bridgeport, CT
- Rajat Parr, Domaine de la Cote, Lompac, CA
2017 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics
Bertha's Kitchen, North Charleston, SC
Owners: Julia Grant, Linda Pinckney and Sharon Coakley
La Taqueria, San Francisco
Owners: Christine Sahadi Whelan, and Ron Sahadi
Schultz's Crab House, Essex, MD
Owners: Chrissy Burkman, Stephanie Kell, Jason McKinney, Michelle McKinney, Robert A. McKinney Jr., and Stephen McKinney
2017 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year
Denise Cerreta, One World Everybody Eats, Salt Lake City
2017 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award
Nora Pouillon, Restaurant Nora, Washington, D.C.
Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers food, travel, and sustainability. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Fortune, National Geographic's The
James Beard Foundation Will Not Name Winners at its 2020 Awards Ceremony
Today the James Beard Foundation announced that its annual Awards program will not present winners in the remaining categories at the upcoming ceremony on Friday, September 25, an unprecedented decision in the Awards’ 30-year history. The choice comes as restaurants continue to suffer the grave negative effects of COVID-19, and as substantial and sustained upheaval in the community has created an environment in which the Foundation believes the assignment of Awards will do little to further the industry in its current uphill battle. The Awards’ usual positive impact on restaurants and chefs’ businesses will likely not be fully realized due to the current state of the industry, with many restaurants closed permanently or temporarily or operating at minimal capacity. These factors helped to inform the decision not to assign winners during a time of such turmoil.
The resulting ceremony, which will be broadcast live via Twitter from the host city of Chicago, will instead celebrate previously announced honorees in categories such as America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, Humanitarian of the Year, Design Icon, and Leadership Awards. The broadcast will also shine a spotlight on many of the nominees and be a night of storytelling surrounding the historic challenges this community faces and how we can work together to rebuild a stronger and more equitable restaurant industry.
The decision comes after serious deliberation and consultation with members of the industry, Award committees, JBF staff, and partners. “We did not come to this decision lightly,” said James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach. “The uncertainty of this time for our industry is already a hard reality and considering anyone to have won or lost within the current tumultuous hospitality ecosystem does not in fact feel like the right thing to do. In short, an honor which we know is held in high regard, at the moment, feels minor when compared to the dire situation we are in. As we strive to provide an Awards program with the highest ethical standards, one that is fair, equitable, and reflective of the industry which we serve, we know that the right move is to step back and take stock of the nominees and honorees achievements. We hope to focus our collective energy on helping our community get through this crisis and on addressing the inequities in the industry going forward. We look forward to bringing the Awards back when the industry is once again ready for them.”
The Foundation recognizes the leadership role that it plays in the restaurant industry through the James Beard Awards and other programs. Thus, it is conducting a comprehensive internal and external review to address any bias and align the Awards with the Foundation’s mission of promoting sustainability, equity, and diversity in the restaurant industry. By definition, “honoring excellence” is an important act that requires care, judgment and openness. The Foundation is taking stock of how the Awards are administered, communicated, and presented to assure the Awards are open to all and that these judgments are made in a manner that promotes and preserves the Foundation’s mission without bias.
The Foundation has also made the decision to forgo its traditional Awards presentations in 2021. The Awards recognize work done during the previous calendar year, so any intent to hold a ceremony in 2021 based on 2020 work would be unfair and misguided, taking into account the unprecedented hardships which restaurants and potential nominees faced this year. Instead, the 2021 ceremony will be a celebration of the independent restaurant community who have shown leadership during this crisis and honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities. This celebration will be held in Chicago and broadcast nationwide in May 2021. The Foundation will take this time to continue the analysis of Awards-related programs with the goal of a transparent and equitable process in 2022 and beyond.
Both the long-term and immediate changes regarding the James Beard Awards processes are outlined here:
Changes for the 2020 Awards Cycle
- On September 25, previously announced winners will be honored from the following categories in a virtual ceremony to be broadcast live via Twitter from the host city of Chicago: America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, Humanitarian of the Year, Design Icon, and Leadership Awards.
- The broadcast will shine a spotlight on the previously announced nominees and be a night of storytelling surrounding the historic challenges this community faces and how we can work together to rebuild a stronger and more equitable restaurant industry.
- Winners will not be announced in the following Restaurant & Chef categories:
- Best New Restaurant
- Outstanding Baker
- Outstanding Bar Program
- Outstanding Chef
- Outstanding Hospitality
- Outstanding Pastry Chef
- Outstanding Restaurant
- Outstanding Restaurateur
- Outstanding Wine Program
- Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Producer
- Rising Star Chef of the Year
- Best Chef: California
- Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
- Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
- Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
- Best Chef: Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY)
- Best Chef: New York State
- Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)
- Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA)
- Best Chef: South (AL, AR, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, FL, LA, MS)
- Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
- Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)
- Best Chef: Texas
Changes for the Future
- The Awards Committee and Subcommittees, made up of volunteer members from within the broader food, restaurant, and media industries, will work with the Foundation and an outside social justice agency to overhaul the policies and procedures for the Awards. The objectives are to remove any systemic bias, increase the diversity of the pool of candidates, maintain relevance, and align the Awards more outwardly with the Foundation’s values of equity, equality, sustainability, and excellence for the restaurant industry.
- To thoroughly conduct this audit, allow ample time to issue new recommendations and changes to future Awards, and take into account the catastrophic effects that COVID-19 has had on the restaurant industry in 2020, the Foundation has made the decision to hold on what would be considered the “traditional” Awards in 2021. In their place, the Foundation will host an industry celebration shining a light on the members of the independent restaurant community who have shown leadership during this crisis and honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities when it was needed most. This celebration will be held in Chicago and broadcast nationwide in May 2021.
- The James Beard Awards will continue in their more traditional, but overhauled state, with the Entry & Recommendation Period in Fall 2021 for Awards taking place in 2022. (Eligibility rules will be expanded to include any relevant work that would have been eligible for a 2021 award.)
- The Foundation is also proud to announce the addition of Foundation trustee Tanya Holland to the James Beard Awards Committee, governing body of the James Beard Awards. Holland is chef/owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA, author, podcast host, and alum of the Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change and Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program.
Through its Open for Good campaign, the Foundation is working to help the independent restaurant industry survive the COVID-19 crisis and come back stronger, more equitable, and more resilient. The Foundation’s vision is an industry in which everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive. There is much more work to do. For information on the Foundation’s Open for Good campaign, please visit jamesbeard.org/openforgood.
Updates regarding the Awards will be posted regularly to jamesbeard.org/awards and on the Foundation’s social channels (@beardfoundation on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #jbfa).
The 2020 James Beard Awards are presented by Capital One, the official credit card and banking partner of the James Beard Foundation. Through this first-of-its-kind partnership, Capital One cardholders enjoy exclusive access to James Beard Foundation programming. The James Beard Awards are proudly hosted by Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association and presented in association with Chicago O’Hare and Midway International Airports, as well as the following partners: Premier Sponsors: All-Clad Metalcrafters, American Airlines, the official airline of the James Beard Foundation, Lavazza, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water Supporting Sponsors: National Restaurant Association®, Skuna Bay Salmon, Tabasco® Sauce, Valrhona, White Claw® Hard Seltzer, Windstar Cruises, the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation Gala Reception Sponsors: Ecolab, Front of the House®, Kendall College, with additional support from VerTerra Dinnerware. Intersport is the Official Broadcast Partner of the 2020 James Beard Awards.
Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and further the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. The first James Beard Awards were given in 1991. The James Beard Awards are governed by the volunteer Awards Committee. Each Awards program (Restaurants and Chefs, Books, Journalism, Design, Broadcast Media, and Leadership) has its own subcommittee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards programs.
About the James Beard Foundation
The James Beard Foundation promotes good food for good™. For more than 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives. Through the James Beard Awards, unique dining experiences at the James Beard House and around the country, scholarships, hands-on learning, and a variety of industry programs that educate and empower leaders in our community, the Foundation has built a platform for chefs and asserted the power of gastronomy to drive behavior, culture, and policy change around food. To that end, the Foundation has also created signature impact-oriented initiatives that include our Women’s Leadership Programs aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in the culinary industry advocacy training through our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change and the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards that shine a spotlight on successful change makers. The organization is committed to giving chefs and their colleagues a voice and the tools they need to make the world more sustainable, equitable, and delicious for everyone. For more information, subscribe to the digital newsletter Beard Bites and follow @beardfoundation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in New York City.
The Full List of 2016 James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Winners
Tonight in a ceremony in New York City, the Foundation announced its Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Winners for 2016. Last month, the Beard Foundation released its list of finalists in all categories, and today each list of three or so names was whittled down to one winner.
The winners in the categories of Restaurant and Chef will be announced at a gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 2. This will be the second year the awards will be held in Chicago. Here now are the winners on the literary and production side of things.
2016 James Beard Foundation Awards Winners
2016 James Beard Foundation Book Awards
Book of the Year Award
Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
Cookbook Hall of Fame inductee
The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook
(Little, Brown and Company)
Baking and Dessert
Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding
(Oxford University Press)
Cooking from a Professional Point of View
NOPI: The Cookbook
Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully
(Ten Speed Press)
Focus on Health
Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome
(Ten Speed Press)
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
J. Kenji López-Alt
(W. W. Norton & Company)
Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking
Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
(Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel
(Ten Speed Press)
Reference and Scholarship
The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
(University of Texas Press)
A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood
Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian
V Is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes & Techniques for Home Cooks
(Little, Brown and Company)
Writing and Literature
Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning)
(Oxford University Press)
Radio Show or Audio Webcast
The Food Chain hosted by Dan Saladino on BBC
Video Webcast in a Fixed Location/Instructional
Indian Curries: The Basics & Beyond hosted by Raghavan Iyer
Video Webcast, On Location
The Sushi Chef: Oona Tempest and Toshio Oguma
Lidia Celebrates America: Home for the Holidays hosted by Lidia Bastianich
The Starfish Throwers by Jesse Roesler
DirecTV and iTunes
Television Program, in Studio or Fixed Location
Extra Virgin, Hosts: Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos
Producers: Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos
Airs on: Cooking Channel
Television Program, On Location
I'll Have What Phil's Having hosted by Phil Rosenthal
Airs on: PBS
"Food4Thought" hosted by Allison Aubrey
Airs on: PBS News Hour
Visual and Technical Excellence
Airs on: Netflix
Vivian Howard, A Chef's Life
2016 James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards
For articles published in English in 2015.
"America's Best Food Cities"
The Washington Post
"The Healthy Cook's Guide to Fat"
Sidney Fry and Robin Bashinsky
Food Coverage in a General-Interest Publication
Los Angeles Magazine
Lesley Bargar Sutar and Bill Esparza
New York Times Magazine
"Seafood From Slaves - An AP Investigation Helps Free Slaves in the 21st Century" Martha Mendoza, Margie Mason, and Robin McDowell
"Cook Like a Pro!"
"On Chicken Tenders"
"Christiane Lauterbach: The Woman Who Ate Atlanta" Wendell Brock
The Bitter Southerner
"One Night: Kachka"
Erin DeJesus, Danielle Centoni, Jen Stevenson, Dina Avila, McGraw Wolfman
Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages
"There Are Almost No Black People Brewing Craft Beer. Here's Why."
Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award
"A Health Food Restaurant so Cool It Will Have You Happily Eating Seeds," "Revisiting Momofuku Ko, After the Revolution," "Polo Bar Review: Ralph Lauren Corrals the Fashionable Herd"
Four of the Five James Beard Finalists for the Best Southwest Chef Are Texans
And yet, after the state’s even more stellar showing in the semifinals, the announcement feels disappointing.
There’s good news for Texas restaurants and the people who love them, and there’s bad news. First, the good: In February, Texas enjoyed its strongest showing ever in the semifinals for the James Beard Awards. The bad? The state seriously slumped in the finals. Even so, it was announced today that four of the five finalists for Best Chef: Southwest are Texan. Invited to attend the James Beard gala in Chicago on May 6 are: Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye, Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine, Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie, all in Austin, and Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio. (The fifth contestant is Charleen Badman of FnB in Scottsdale, Arizona.)
The awards, first given in 1991, are widely regarded as the Oscars of the restaurant industry.
Will this be the year that Gilmore, who making his seventh consecutive appearance, wins the category? Or maybe it will be McHugh, a fourth-time finalist? Fojtasek has been here once before, while Fink is making his debut on the elite list.
Even though four regional nominees are nothing to sneeze at, the number is only a fraction of the Texas competitors who reached the second round of judging: 27 entries in eleven competitions, including Outstanding Restaurant (Ninfa’s on Navigation in Houston), Outstanding Chef (Chris Shepherd, also in Houston), Best New Restaurant (Petra and the Beast in Dallas and Suerte in Austin), and Rising Star Chef of the Year (Jonathan “Jonny” Rhodes of Restaurant Indigo in Houston). That’s the most Texas has ever landed in the semifinals and an impressive 35 percent jump over the twenty spots in 2018. None of these exciting entries made it to the finals.
Despite falling short in the finals, the state’s growing presence on the national culinary scene was underscored by the fact that today’s live news conference announcing the finalists was held in Houston. The site of the announcement was Hugo’s restaurant, whose executive chef, Hugo Ortega, was named Best Chef: Southwest in 2017.
Behind the Cancellation of James Beard Awards, Worries About Chefs’ Behavior and No Black Winners
The decision to put the honors, the Oscars of American restaurants, on hiatus came amid concerns about a lack of diversity and allegations against some nominees.
(Update: Aug. 28, 2020. This article has been updated to note that Pete Wells served on the James Beard awards’ restaurant committee for two years.)
The James Beard Foundation’s declaration last week that it would not announce the winners of this year’s major restaurant and chef awards startled Blake Spalding and Jen Castle, the two chefs who own Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm in Boulder, Utah.
The week before, Ms. Spalding and Ms. Castle had taped a short video at the foundation’s request in which they pretended to accept the award they had been nominated for, Best Chef Mountain. Told to give a 30-second acceptance speech, they thanked their employees, then clapped and laughed for 90 seconds, as if they had just won.
All the nominees were being asked to make a video like this, they were told. Still, they allowed themselves to get their hopes up. Then they got a mass email from the foundation, calling the whole thing off.
“We were really gutted,” Ms. Spalding said. “It was a really demoralizing and wrenching thing to be so close and have them be, ‘Never mind.’ ”
She was not the only one taken by surprise. Several people on the volunteer committee that administers the restaurant awards said they learned about an hour before the announcement that there would be no new winners this year because they seemed “minor” compared with the hardships restaurants now face.
The foundation’s news release said the decision not to name winners in 2020 or 2021 had been made “after serious deliberation and consultation with members of the industry, Award committees, JBF staff, and partners.” But the days leading up to the decision were so frantic that many people close to the awards say they aren’t quite sure what had happened.
With the winners’ names to be broadcast at a virtual ceremony set for late September, the foundation struggled to stay on schedule as the ground shifted beneath its feet. Restaurant workers were taking to social media to denounce their bosses. The restaurant-going public was rapidly changing its notions of which chef behaviors should be rewarded, which overlooked and which shunned. As Black Lives Matter protests bloomed across the country, patience was growing thin over how few opportunities are given to Black chefs, including the opportunity to win Beard awards.
The James Beard Foundation itself was trying to leave behind its origins as a group that celebrated the restaurant industry, and make itself over as one that led the charge for reform.
It was a lot to handle. By last week, the foundation’s leaders had settled on calling off the rest of the 2020 awards season, which only a few days before had seemed like a remote possibility.
The short list of nominees had been announced in May. The final vote had been cast and counted soon afterward. But in July and August, the slate of nominees began to crumble, according to interviews with foundation officials, nominees and members of the committee that administers the restaurant and chef awards.
Some chefs took themselves out of the running. The foundation asked others to drop out, having deemed them too controversial because new allegations about their personal or professional behavior had surfaced over the summer. The critics, reporters and other media people on the restaurant awards committee say they were overwhelmed by the number and speed with which chefs were falling under suspicion.
At an emergency meeting held on Zoom in late July, a foundation staff member who had seen the final voting results raised a second concern: No Black people had won in any of the 23 categories on the ballot.
This would not have been a first for the James Beard awards. The foundation and the restaurant awards committee had promised many times recently, though, to field more diverse slates of candidates. Many observers saw progress. This year, a number of Black chefs were named as semifinalists or nominees. But they had lost in the final round of voting, according to people who were briefed on the racial breakdown of the results.
“The message came through that they knew who the winners were, and the winners didn’t look like they want them to look,” said one committee member, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about violating the nondisclosure agreement everyone on the panel is required to sign.
After some discussion, a suggestion was placed before the committee. “We proposed removing previous winners” from the voting body, said Mitchell Davis, the foundation’s chief strategy officer.
According to the procedures described on the foundation’s website, votes on the restaurant and chef awards are given to the 20 members of the restaurant committee, to the 200 or so regional judges they appoint, and to hundreds of people who have won awards in the past.
Established in 1990, the awards program embraces several fields, including design, journalism, books and broadcast media. But the prizes that are called the Oscars of the food world are the ones given to chefs and restaurants. (This reporter has received six of the journalism awards, and served on the restaurant awards committee in 2005 and 2006.)
The restaurant and chef awards have long mirrored the American restaurant business itself, whose highest slopes of power and prestige have tended to be the preserve of white men cooking food mainly derived from Western Europe.
Mr. Davis and others see the voting bloc of previous winners as a possible source of what he calls “systemic bias.” But taking them out of the process after the votes had been counted struck many members of the restaurant committee as foul play.
“The committee was like, if the results aren’t what we wanted, tough,” said one member, who asked not to be named because of the nondisclosure agreement. “We’re not going to get into vote rigging.”
There was less resistance to another proposal: a second vote, with the regular group of voters. The ballot would be edited to remove nominees the foundation now saw as problematic. But as summer went on, that list kept getting longer.
“The longer they waited, the more they learned about people,” another committee member said.
Stock your bar shelf with three James Beard-nominated cocktail books from Chicago authors
Chicago has long been known as a drinking town. It may come as no surprise then that the trio of authors nominated for a James Beard beverage book award this year all have ties to the city.
Jim Meehan, who grew up in Oak Park and River Forest, won the award on Friday for his book, "Meehan's Bartender Manual," an announcement made Friday at The James Beard Foundation Media Awards ceremony in New York. (The remaining awards will be announced May 7 at the Lyric in Chicago.)
His book and the two other nominees all should find a place on your home bar's bookshelf.
"Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World's Ultimate Artisanal Spirit"
Voyageur Press, 242 pages, $25
Mezcal has quickly become one of America's trendiest spirits, popularized by bartenders and embraced by both casual consumers and cocktail nerds alike. But many who have developed a love for the Mexican liquor might not understand the spirit's long history and complex nuances.
Chicago-based writer Emma Janzen aims to change that. In her book, Janzen grabs readers by the hand and takes them on a tour of Mexico's mezcal-producing regions. Along the way, she explains traditional production methods, helps readers gain an appreciation for the many different types of agave used in fermentation, and shares her beautiful photography of the palenques (distilleries) and maestro mezcaleros she has come across on her trips into the Mexican countryside.
Particularly helpful is Janzen's inclusion of "bottles to try" throughout the book. Interested in trying a mezcal made with agave cupreata? Mezcales de Leyenda Guerrero is a good place to start. Never had a pechuga? Seek out a pour of Real Minero Pechuga at your neighborhood mezcaleria.
Of course, the book offers plenty of cocktail recipes too. Janzen has collected drink specs from dozens of bars known for their mezcal enthusiasm, from the shoebox-size Baltra in Mexico City to Houston's boisterous Pastry War to New York City's late, great Mayahuel. The book features cocktails from Chicago bartenders, as well, including the Ace Hotel's Caitlin Laman, Quiote's Jay Schroeder, and Ben Fasman and Michael Rubel from Estereo. "Mezcal" made me thirst for return visits to each of these bars, armed with some newly acquired expertise.
"Meehan's Bartender Manual"
Ten Speed Press, 488 pages, $40
Chicagoans have become familiar with Jim Meehan's work through his new bar, West Loop's Prairie School. But Meehan is no stranger to Chicago — he grew up in Oak Park and River Forest.
With his book, Meehan follows in the footsteps of authors like Harry Johnson, who compiled his "Bartenders' Manual" at the end of the 19th century. Meehan has filled his own "Bartender Manual" with so much rich detail that it will likely become a go-to guide for the next generation of bartenders.
The book offers insights from a number of industry heavyweights but mostly draws from the author's own experience. Meehan shares his wisdom in his exploration of hospitality ("working service in a bar is like painting a room: if you spend hours prepping correctly, all you have to do is apply the paint evenly"), bar design (he favors wooden bar tops soft enough to prevent glasses from shattering but "sturdy enough to stand on if the occasion is ever called for") and spirits (he values cultural terroir — "the know-how passed down from one generation of producers to the next" — over geographic terroir).
While much of "Meehan's Bartender Manual" is directed at industry pros, its approachable recipes for dozens of cocktails make it of keen interest to home bartenders too. The drinks are classified by spirit and are interspersed with succinct lessons in distilling and cocktail history. It's this serious, intellectual approach to the subject that makes "Meehan's Bartender Manual" required reading for professionals and cocktail enthusiasts alike.
"3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon"
Ten Speed Press, 176 pages, $18.99
Many home bartenders have amassed small libraries of cocktail books offering an inexhaustible supply of drink recipes. But often these recipes can be more aspirational than practical. So when your liquor store doesn't stock pommeau de Normandie and you find yourself fresh out of kumquat cordial, "3-Ingredient Cocktails" has your back.
Robert Simonson, a Wisconsinite and Northwestern University graduate, has curated a book filled with easy-to-replicate recipes, many of them classics that have stood the test of time. The Hanky Panky, for example, has been popularized around the world. But with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and a couple of dashes of Fernet-Branca, there's no reason it can't be popular at home, as well. And if you're comfortable stirring up a Negroni, you'll learn to branch out with a Boulevardier, an Old Pal or an Old Gal.
Included with the recipes are Simonson's thoughts on several standards, including ruminations on the long-suffering Gibson (the onion "ought to be fussed over and perfected"), the Everyman magic of the Manhattan ("any bar could make you a decent one") and the fine-tuned fiction of the Harvey Wallbanger (a "three-ingredient, fluke colossus").
For those of you who have joined mixology's army of weekend warriors, spending evenings stirring up martinis and Old-Fashioneds, "3-Ingredient Cocktails" will help you expand your repertoire without busting your budget.
2019 James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards
What We Talk About When We Talk About American Food: “The Pickled Cucumbers That Survived the 1980s AIDS Epidemic” 𠇊 Second Look at the Tuna Sandwich’s All-American History” and 𠇏reedom and Borscht for Ukrainian-Jewish Émigrés," Mari Uyehara. Taste
Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award
Counter Intelligence: “The Hearth & Hound, April Bloomfield’s New Los Angeles Restaurant, Is Nothing Like a Gastropub” “There’s Crocodile and Hog Stomach, but Jonathan Gold Is All About the Crusty Rice at Nature Pagoda” and 𠇊t Middle Eastern Restaurants, It All Starts with Hummus. Jonathan Gold says Bavel’s Is Magnificent," Jonathan Gold. Los Angeles Times
“Many Chinas, Many Tables," Jonathan Kauffman and Team. San Francisco Chronicle
𠇊 Kingdom from Dust," Mark Arax. The California Sunday Magazine
Food Coverage in a General Interest Publication
New York Magazine. Robin Raisfeld, Rob Patronite, Maggie Bullock, and the Staff of New York Magazine
𠇊 Hunger for Tomatoes," Shane Mitchell.The Bitter Southerner
𠇌lean Label’s Dirty Little Secret," Nadia Berenstein. The New Food Economy
“The Subtle Thrills of Cold Chicken Salad," Cathy Erway. Taste
“In Search of Water-Boiled Fish," Angie Wang. Eater
𠇊 Killing Season," Boyce Upholt.The New Republic
Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award
“Yes Indeed, Lord: Queen’s Cuisine, Where Everything Comes from the Heart” “Top 10 New Orleans Restaurants for 2019” and “Sexual Harassment Allegations Preceded Sucré Co-Founder Tariq Hanna’s Departure”. Brett Anderson, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune
M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award
“What Is Northern Food?” Steve Hoffman. Artful Living
Personal Essay, Long Form
“I Made the Pizza Cinnamon Rolls from Mario Batali’s Sexual Misconduct Apology Letter," Geraldine DeRuiter. Everywhereist.com
Personal Essay, Short Form
“I’m a Chef with Terminal Cancer. This Is What I’m Doing with the Time I Have Left," Fatima Ali. Bon Appétit
“The Short and Brilliant Life of Ernest Matthew Mickler," Michael Adno.The Bitter Southerner
Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages
“‘Welch’s Grape Jelly with Alcohol’: How Trump’s Horrific Wine Became the Ultimate Metaphor for His Presidency”