James Beard was a profoundly orotund sensualist who got famous in the '50s promoting gourmet French food to middlebrow America through a number of cookbooks and essays—he also co-founded Citymeals-on-Wheels, which delivers food to the home-bound elderly in NYC, as well as an eponymous cooking school. He died in the '80s, and now there's a James Beard Foundation that carries on his foodie legacy, operating out of his old West Village townhouse. (To give you a sense of Beard's flamboyant personality, the upstairs bathroom is floor-to-ceiling mirrors.) Every year the Foundation gives out a bunch of awards at a big pretentious event the food blogs breathlessly fawn over.
"Are you live tweeting this?" "No we're Instagraming it." OH in the #jbfa press room
— kludt (@kludt) May 7, 2012
Some call the James Beard Awards the "Oscars" of the food world, and by most accounts the "ceremony" is about as long and boring and self-congratulatory as that sounds. (The after-parties, however, seem worth crashing.) Anthony Bourdain has been a particularly eloquent critic of the event, describing it as a "goat rodeo/awards ceremony/chef shakedown" and ranting thus:
I seriously doubt you will see an increase in the number of Mexicans present [at the awards]. Or any other of the nationalities who comprise the backbone, heart, lungs, blood and muscle of the hospitality industry this organization claims to celebrate. I won’t be there to find out... I would sooner attend a Renaissance Fair in Hell. It would seem wrong, after all, given that I’ve been loudly peeing on this organization at every opportunity for years... Maybe when they make para-legal advice for Mexican cooks a priority-or take a loud, persistent stand on the people doing so much of the actual cooking in this country, I’ll change my views. Till then? Screw ‘em.
And last night Bourdain was in Rio, but apparently the Beard Foundation backslappery echoes around the globe. He Tweeted, "Mexicans/Latinos comprise what percent of the actual restaurant hospitality workforce? NYC estimates range from 30-70 percent. I'd like see that ridiculous foundation spend some of those millions lobbying for the people who do most of the work in the industry."
Anyway, a bunch of people in the dining and eating industry were recognized last night for their achievements. To be sure, these talented folks work hard and we certainly don't begrudge them the accolades from their peers. Here are the ones who made out "best"—whether they're actually the "best" is something to argue about in the comments:
- Best Chef in New York City (Five Boroughs): Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern)
- Outstanding Bar Program: PDT
- Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park)
- Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard (San Francisco)
- Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar)
- Best New Restaurant: Next (Chicago)
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Wolfgang Puck (Chef and Restaurateur, Los Angeles)
- Humanitarian of the Year: Charlie Trotter (Chef and Restaurateur, Chicago)