James Beard Awards celebrate culinary excellence

New York City is often considered the culinary capital of the world, but the Big Apple got a break from hosting the recent 25th annual James Beard Awards. The event, often referred to as “the Oscars of the food world,” took place in Chicago at the Civic Opera House for the first time on May 4. According to The New York Times, the awards will remain in Illinois for the next two years and then moved once again, to highlight the diversity of the U.S. food scene.

Exciting night for the culinary industry

The recognition awards were started in 1990 with the goal of highlighting the culinary community’s most talented and innovative members. The winners are chosen by small committees composed of the food industry’s best and brightest. Professionals from all aspects of the field are acknowledged, from restaurant architects to food journalists.

While the awards weren’t held in NYC, this year’s awards favored the East Coast city’s infamous and cutting-edge restaurant scene. “Best New Restaurant” went to NYC’s Bâtard, while “Best Baker” went to Jim Lahey from New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery. Michael Anthony, from Gramercy Tavern, was named “Best Chef.” The award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” was given to NYC eatery Momofuku’s Christina Tosi.

The host city’s food scene earned some high praise as well, with Chicago’s “The Violet Hour” claiming the prize for “Best Bar Program” and local hospitality professional Donnie Madia winning “Outstanding Restaurateur.”

Awards showcase food favorites across the U.S. 

San Francisco also earned recognition for its culinary endeavors. The city’s A16 took the “Outstanding Wine Program” award, while the title of “Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional” was given to the Bay Area’s Rajat Parr. Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, the team behind San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions, took home the prize for “Best Chef: West.”

Cities across the U.S. were able to shine in the regional categories. “Best Chef: Great Lakes” went to Cleveland’s Jonathon Sawyer, “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” was given to Baltimore’s Spike Gjerde and  “Best Chef: Midwest” was earned by Gerard Craft from Clayton, Missouri. Barry Maiden from Cambridge, Massachusetts took home the honor of “Best Chef: Northeast,” Blaine Wetzel from Lummi Island, Washington, was named “Best Chef: Northwest,” and New Orlean’s Alon Shaya took home “Best Chef: South.” “Best Chef: Southeast” went to Jason Stanhope of Charleston, South Carolina and Aaaron Franklin from Austin, Texas, earned “Best Chef: Southwest.”

Outstanding food journalism recognized
The night not only recognized great chefs and restaurants, but also the people who contribute to the media side of the culinary universe. The publication “Saveur” earned the “Dining and Travel” award in the Food Journalism category, while Rebecca Flint Marx took home the “Food and Culture” award for her piece “The Toxic, Abusive, Addictive, Supportive, Codependent Relationship Between Chefs and Yelpers.” The award for “Food and Health” went to Michael Specter for his piece, “Against the Grain,” and Molly Wizenberg took home the “Individual Food Blog” prize for her website, “Orangette.”

By: Abigail Richards