James Beard Award Winners 2010: Marea, Daniel, Craft and French Laundry
It's no surprise that New York and Napa Valley restaurants dominated the top spots at Monday night's James Beard Awards held at Lincoln Center. Foodies of every stripe -- from Food Network stars to French Laundry chefs -- were in attendance at the black-tie event. A red carpet was even set up in the new courtyard outside Avery Fisher Hall so the truly food-obsessed could catch a glimpse of chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Lidia Bastianich and Alton Brown, the evenings co-hosts. (Pictured above is Brown, JBF president Susan Ungaro, Bastianich and Ted Allen arriving on the red carpet.)
The big awards of the evening went to New York's Marea for Best New Restaurant; Tom Colicchio of the Craft restaurants (and a regular "Top Chef" judge) won the Outstanding Chef Award; Daniel Boulud won the Outstanding Restaurant Award for Daniel, another New York restaurant; the Outstanding Pastry Chef award went to Nichole Plue of Redd in Napa Valley; and Timothy Hollingsworth of Napa's famous The French Laundry, won the Rising Star Chef of the Year Award.
Backstage, talk turned to to food trends -- something fine-dining chefs don't look kindly on -- and the seemingly omnipresent locavore movement. And we even found out where these top chefs are excited to eat.
TV celebrity-chef Ted Allen, who currently hosts "Chopped" on the Food Network admitted to being slightly torn over the trend. "I'm not sick of the locavore or the farm to table movement except that we as journalists tend to beat it into the ground as a story. And I think there also are other issues; I mean does this mean that I'm not supposed to eat fish sauce anymore? I don't think they make fish sauce in New Jersey, to my knowledge.
"So much of what I love about food is the variety and a lot of that means getting food from other parts of the world. On the other hand I love to grow my own tomatoes; I love to shop at [Brooklyn's] Fort Green Farmers' Market. It's nice knowing that no one had to put it in a semi, gas it up and drive it across the country. I guess it's all about balance."
Thomas Keller, whose chef de cuisine (or head chef) at The French Laundry won the prestigious Rising Star Chef of the Year award, personally won in the cookbook category for his "Ad Hoc at Home," which marks his fourth James Beard Award (he twice received Best Chef awards and once the Outstanding Restauranteur award). Keller, who now spends most of his time at his three-Michelin-starred fine dining establishment in New York, Per Se, doesn't fancy food trends.
"This whole thing with farm-to-table, we've kind of got blinders on," he says. "We have to remember that before World War II everything was farm-to-table. It's not a new thing. So going back to that is a wonderful idea, but it's something that's been going on for centuries, its natural, we should never have gotten away from it."
Keller says that for his restaurants he's more concerned with quality than trends. "I don't try to find new things or become part of a trend or any of that, it's just about continuing refining what we've been doing for generations."
Swiss chef Daniel Humm (left), who won the competitive Best Chef, New York award for his work at Eleven Madison Park (where he also earned four stars from The New York Times this year), shared a little bit about his vision in the kitchen.
He says he's proud of the "less is more" direction the restaurant has helped forge. The menu strives for "simple and focused" dishes. "Right now we just put a dish on the menu that is rabbit and mustard and there are different parts of the rabbit like the leg, the loin, the kidneys and then the mustard is also; there are different greens of mustard, there is flowering mustard, and there is mustard."
So what restaurant are these top chefs excited to eat in?
One name came up repeatedly: Noma in Copenhagen.
Rising Star chef Tim Hollingsworth mentioned it as the spot he's most excited to try. Noma is owned by his former colleague at The French Laundry, chef Rene Redzepi, and just last month was named Best Restaurant in the World by the S. Pelligrino Awards run by The Restaurant magazine.
Eleven Madison Park's Humm also mentioned Noma as his most memorable meal recently. "Last week I ate at Noma in Copenhagen and it was incredible. Incredible!"
The foodies have spoken. Now good luck getting a reservation.
See a full list of the 2010 James Beard Award winners on the James Beard Foundation web site.
Gallery: James Beard Awards 2010 and Gala