What is in this article?:
- Celebrating chef culture at 2013 James Beard Awards
- Chefs take time to celebrate
Nation Restaurant News' senior food editor shares his take on the annual event.
“I have the best job in the world,” said David Chang,and owner of the New York City-based Momofuku restaurants, when accepting the James Beard Foundation Chef and Restaurant Award for Outstanding Chef of the Year, an honor he shared with Paul Kahan, chef-partner of Blackbird, Avec, The Publican, Big Star and The Violet Hour in Chicago.
This was the first time in the awards’ history that the Outstanding Chef prize — the top honor, according to the Beard Foundation — was given to two chefs. The two most newsworthy winners, however, were State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, which was named Best New Restaurant, and Danny Bowien, who was named Rising Star Chef of the Year. Bowien is the chef and co-founder of Mission Chinese Food, which has locations in San Francisco and New York City.
Those awards are important because a venue only has one chance to be named best new restaurant and because a chef only has until age 30 to be named a rising star.
Other than those categories, the awards go to a rotating roster of chefs, beverage professionals and restaurateurs who are generally acknowledged to be great at their jobs.
About half of the nominees each year are the same as the nominees of the year before. Once you're nominated for an award, you have a good chance of winning it eventually, and then once you win, you can’t be nominated again for a number of years. In fact, this year was the first time a chef has won twice in the same category: Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland, Maine, won the award for the best chef in the Northeast in 1999, and she won it again this year.
But the point of the awards isn’t who wins. It all has to do with Chang’s observation that he has the best job in the world, a sentiment several chefs and restaurateurs had expressed earlier during the three-hour awards ceremony, even though on paper that’s not remotely true.