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2006 James Beard Awards


Joe H
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Thursday of this week. This is their website: http://www.jamesbeard.org/

Neither Michel nor Roberto has won the national award nor has Fabio been treated kindly. All three of these are equal to any chef in America. Susan Wallace is a fantastic pastry chef at Black Salt whose pots de creme is one of the best desserts I have ever had. CityZen is worthy of a mention as is Charleston.

Coincidentally, the Beard Awards are announced on Monday, May 8th. Roberto has his rematch against Morimoto televised the night before.

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Thursday of this week.  This is their website:  http://www.jamesbeard.org/

Neither Michel nor Roberto has won the national award nor has Fabio been treated kindly. 

Actually I believe both Michel Richard and Roberto Donna have won awards, albeit in the distant past. And Fabio was nominated last year, not a particularly 'unkind' thing for the Foundation to do.
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Actually I believe both Michel Richard and Roberto Donna have won awards, albeit in the distant past.  And Fabio was nominated last year, not a particularly 'unkind' thing for the Foundation to do.

Both Roberto and Michel won regional awards, Roberto for the Best Chef in the Mid Atlantic and Michel for the Best Chef in the West when he was still in L. A. Fabio has twice been nominated for "Rising Star Chef of the Year" which is a national award. Last year (the third in a row that he received a nomination) he was nominated for "Best Chef in the Mid Atlantic" but this was awarded to Marc Vetri of Philly. I would not be surprised, this year, to see Michel be nominated for the national chef of the year (or Citronelle which has received a lot of national attention) and Fabio again for the regional but winning it. At some point Roberto is going to come back on the critic's radar, too. I believe that all of his effort in the Lab will eventually be acknowledged.

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Is it fair though, to give him the Beard just for the Lab? Shouldn't he be judged on the whole restaurant. While I have heard that the Lab is Donna at his best, it has been years since I had a meal in the main dining room that was even worthy of a nomination.

I agree that back in the early '90's Donna may have deserved the award but I find the Galileo of this decade a disappointment when we know what he was once capable of in the main restaurant.

While we are on the topic of the national award, when was the last time a local chef won?

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Perhaps you should have Roberto Donna cook for you and then make a decision. I know of nowhere else in America where a chef of his talent and stature provides an almost four hour 12 course meal within a few feet of 15-25 diners who are free to come up and allow him to become part of their experience.

Of course he should be judged for the Lab. It is he that is cooking. No one else.

I should also add that whatever you experienced in the '90's at Galileo has nothing in common with the Lab, no matter how good you thought that was. You cannot compare it now, you cannot compare it to then.

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Perhaps you should have Roberto Donna cook for you and then make a decision.  I know of nowhere else in America where a chef of his talent and stature provides an almost four hour 12 course meal within a few feet of 15-25 diners who are free to come up and allow him to become part of their experience.
I don't think the awards are about accessibility which I think would likely be an unfair advantage anyway given that most restaurants don't offer the same type of open-kitchen layout that Laboratorio does. And the lab isn't the typical diner's experience either. While Roberto does prepare very good and sometimes excellent dishes, his cooking -- like so many others -- can be uneven as well. In my extremely humble opinion, there are many amazing chefs both locally and nationwide who are more deserving of such an award. Looking forward with anticipation to the announcement tomorrow - and always rooting for the local chefs, of course <_<
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I know of nowhere else in America where a chef of his talent and stature provides an almost four hour 12 course meal within a few feet of 15-25 diners who are free to come up and allow him to become part of their experience.

Uh, Morimoto does this at his restaurant in Philly (at the "sushi bar"). He may not be there daily now, but the Lab isn't open every day either.
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I agree that back in the early '90's Donna may have deserved the award but I find the Galileo of this decade a disappointment when we know what he was once capable of in the main restaurant.

Within the Beard award framework there is a distinction made between chef and restaurant, though the emphasis is definitely on chef awards not restaurant awards (there is a separate outstanding restaurant award--it was won by Galatoire's last year). We can agree Galileo is not of restaurant award calibre these days. Roberto himself may be of chef award level for his own work in the Lab, but it is a small operation not even open every night, unlike the restaurant "homes" of basically all typical national chef award nominees, and while I certainly don't know how the award process really goes, I'm sure that fact does not boost his chances.

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Michel will have a legitimate chance for the national award having long paid his dues as well as establishing himself on both coasts. Fabio WILL win this year; as much as I like Charleston it is still several notches below Maestro. Obelisk is good as is the Bread Line (for what it is) but both pale to Fabio's creativity, style and taste. The Striped Bass is on par with Charleston but I cannot imagine Philadelphia winning two years in a row. I believe Fabio is 1:5 or better to win this. Michel 3:1.

Las Vegas had a lot of presence in this year's nominations with at least three restaurants receiving nominations.

D. C. is in line for a big step up in the spring.

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Let's be honest. Beard awards are like the Grammy's-eventually everyone gets one. They are marketing tools that used to be corrupt and crass, and are now just crass. Why else would there be 16 writing awards and 12 book awards? That's more than ACTUAL FOOD awards! And I don't want to start another flame war with Joe about Roberto Donna, but please!

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Let's be honest.  Beard awards are like the Grammy's-eventually everyone gets one.  They are marketing tools that used to be corrupt and crass, and are now just crass.  Why else would there be 16 writing awards and 12 book awards?  That's more than ACTUAL FOOD awards!  And I don't want to start another flame war with Joe about Roberto Donna, but please!

as someone in the business; i agree with you.

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Let's be honest.  Beard awards are like the Grammy's-eventually everyone gets one.  They are marketing tools that used to be corrupt and crass, and are now just crass.  Why else would there be 16 writing awards and 12 book awards?  That's more than ACTUAL FOOD awards!  And I don't want to start another flame war with Joe about Roberto Donna, but please!

Here's my analogy: Johnny Depp wouldn't get a James Beard award if he were a chef, but he's still the shit. He just said 'yes' to "Edward Scissorhands" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "Ed Wood"...and 'no' to the mainstream stuff. Artist.

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Here's my analogy: Johnny Depp wouldn't get a James Beard award if he were a chef, but he's still the shit.  He just said 'yes' to "Edward Scissorhands" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "Ed Wood"...and 'no' to the mainstream stuff.  Artist.

But that implies that nominees like Michel, or Nobu or Colicchio or Hubert Keller aren't artists. They're just artists who have been accepted by the mainstream. In many ways just as impressive a feat as toiling in obscurity.

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But that implies that nominees like Michel, or Nobu or Colicchio or Hubert Keller aren't artists.  They're just artists who have been accepted by the mainstream.  In many ways just as impressive a feat as toiling in obscurity.

No, I didn't mean to imply that certain others are not ungodly talents. But I do believe that in a certain population of runners-up, all it would take is signing book deals, being at the breast cancer dinner, doing something on Fox Morning News. I don't mean to say that charity work or fund-raising is anything more than good will (I mean, think of Bono. He really believes in it.). An agent could help a chef agree to certain things; do things like make more money and get fame. I don't really see the honor as one all about the work done in kitchens. Also, if you have missing teeth, you're out.

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as someone in the business; i agree with you.

Are there any awards that those in the business feel are worthwhile? Or does it even matter as long as you are making a profit and your customers are happy?

Personally I question why some restaurants are chosen. I ate at Obelisk this week and with the exception of the first antipasti - barratta, which is similar to mozzerella - we did not have a single bit that was worthy of even the nomination. The GM had to dance around the answer when we asked if the chef was even in the kitchen cooking the food.

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i ate at obelisk, a year and a half ago, and thought the food was simple. simple to a fault. not simple good. peter pastan is not a chef, he is a restraunteur. and; from what i have heard, furstenburg may not even own breadline anymore.

my feeling is that 20% of the nominees are deserving

40% of the nominees were deserving say 5 or 10 years ago.

and 40% of the nominees are just not deserving at all.

for god's sake, del posto is nominated as best restaurant in the nation. it just opened up 4 months ago.

i also feel that if a chef (like thomas keller) is the best in california, he should be able to win it every year. not just once every 5 or ten years. because in my opinion, that cheapens what the award really is.

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I cannot imagine a chef who would not be honored to win or even be nominated for a Beard award. I am certain that for most, if not all, they mean a great deal. No they are not an index to EVERY good chef or cook but the ones they honor usually have represented a city or an area's best. I've used the chefs and restaurants nominated for years as a guideline to restaurants that I'll have meals at when travelling. With few exceptions they have almost always steered me to an exceptional meal or experience. Perhaps these experiences aren't consistent over time (i.e. Emeril's on Tschoupolitas street in the mid '90's when he was in the kitchen has little in common with today) but usually when the nomination is made they are an accurate reflection of the restaurant. Obelisk? I haven't been in a couple of years. But for about ten or more years this was a special restaurant; if it has indeed fallen then perhaps the nomination reflects the past. It may also spur the chef/owner to return to his heritage.

I really don't think this board should be so quick to discount the value of the Beard awards. For many they are confirmation of years of effort in a kitchen. Or in owning a restaurant. Or in wine service and knowledge. Or in writing. They mean a lot-I think an awful lot-to those who are nominated.

I wish Michel and Fabio the best this year. If the awards also reflect what they have brought to a community then we are far better because of their efforts. I also salute the past winners from Roberto to Patrick to Buben to Kinkead to Kliman and the many, many others. Annually, Washington has double the number of chef's nominations of all other cities in the Mid Atlantic area combined (Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, etc.). They are testimony to the excellence of what can be found here.

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I really don't think this board should be so quick to discount the value of the Beard awards.  For many they are confirmation of years of effort in a kitchen.  Or in owning a restaurant.  Or in wine service and knowledge.  Or in writing.  They mean a lot-I think an awful lot-to those who are nominated.

I am sometimes guilty of being an iconoclast myself. Regarding this matter; I genuinely believe in the Beard awards. Its industry people rewarding industry people for excellence. Yes, sometimes greatness is overlooked; for the most part it does a good job of recognizing the premiere. If not Beard then what.?

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Thank you, sir. My sister once had a restaurant that Phyllis Richman called one of "DC's 50 Best." Before her bankruptcy. That was many years ago but today, at age 67, she still works 80 to 90 hours per week in her catering business. Any recognition for this kind of effort (and more for many others) is worthwhile and appreciated.

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I think the politics associated with the Beard awards can, at times, be overwhelming. It is simply not in the best interest of the New York based Beard Society to award the national award to a Washington restaurant. Just as it was not in their best interest to award the Rising Star award to Fabio at Maestro although he was nominated twice for it. Instead, the first year it was given to "Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar" an entirely different type of operation than the international class Maestro.

I think this is more about reinforcing the local restaurant scene in New York with exceptions made for the "non threatening" West Coast San Francisco and possibly, midwestern Chicago. There is a very definite arrogance associated with New York: by continually honoring New York based chefs and restaurants the impression is created with chefs and restauranteurs in other cities that if they are ambitious they will be better off in New York. Jose Andres should open his signature restaurant there, Fabio should move there and, of course, Michel and Roberto would both have won the National award by now if they were based there. That is the impression that I receive by the awards that are handed out.

I'd draw an analogy to Michelin and areas of Spain. Arguably, the most creative and interesting cuisine in Europe right now is in Barcelona and San Sebastian. Yet there are far more Michelin starred restaurants in Paris than in both of these combined. It's simply not in the best interest of a French based group to give greater credence to another country. Nor to honor, say, the best restaurants in Germany. It is unthinkable that Schwarzwaldstube or Dieter Muller be thought of in the same breath with Ducasse, Gagnaire and others. A German three star somehow seems a bit lower than a Parisian three star while, in truth, it is every bit the equal. Schwarzwaldstube was the first German restaurant to recieve three stars yet it was only ten or twelve years ago that this happened. Some would argue its excellence was so pronounced that Michelin could not continue to deny it. Can Beard continue to deny D. C.?

I believe that the Beard Society believes it is not in the best interest of the city they are based in to honor nationally a restaurant in a city that might challenge their own for attracting chefs. For them it is better that Washington continue to be thought of as a city for meat and potatoes and the occasional fried shrimp.

Still, Michel has paid his dues. Citronelle is extraordinary. It would be just as extraordinary if it were in New York, Paris or Barcelona. At some point-hopefully before I retire to the nursing home-the Beard Society will honor the city I was born in with what we long ago should have received: the home to the national award winning chef/restaurant which has been bestowed by them.

Michel Richard is as creative and deserving as anyone in America. I believe and I hope it is his time and our time. I only hope that politics do not stand in his way. IF THESE ARE INDEED NATIONAL AWARDS THEN IT WOULD BE QUITE SIGNIFICANT FOR THE NEW YORK BASED BEARD SOCIETY TO HONOR A RESTAURANT IN ANOTHER EAST COAST CITY, especially Washington, D. C., the city that more than any other now competes with New York for International prominence.

If he does win there is no question in my mind that Jose will open his visionary restaurant here. And others will follow along with future national recognition for Fabio and what Roberto has achieved in his Laboratorio.

Of course the realization of this is what might stand between Michel and the Beard award. Still, he may stand the best chance of anyone since Jean Louis. And then there was no Beard. Today we are much more than Ethiopean and kebobs and Peruvian chicken. Some of our restaurants equal any in the world. This would be the first step to acknowledging that.

Edited by Joe H
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IF THESE ARE INDEED NATIONAL AWARDS THEN IT WOULD BE QUITE SIGNIFICANT FOR THE NEW YORK BASED BEARD SOCIETY TO HONOR A RESTAURANT IN ANOTHER EAST COAST CITY, especially Washington, D. C., the city that more than any other now competes with New York for International prominence.

Inn at Little Washington has won about every Beard Award a restaurant can win, including national awards for Best Restaurant (1993), Best Service (1997), Best Wine Service (1998), and Best Chef (2001).

Cheers,

Rocks.

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It is not considered a Washington, D. C. area restaurant. I also believe it is not as good as several restaurants in the D. C. area, proper, today. I believe that awarding a restaurant, an "Inn" 80 miles outside of Washington or Boston or Philadelphia or Baltimore or Pittsburgh or Richmond, is "non threatening" (for lack of a better word). Patrick O'Connell has a fantastic amount of talent but I think he is resting on this. It would be extremely interesting if he would totally revamp his menu and felt the challenge that he must have in the '80's. Michel has introduced a number of extraordinarily creative dishes in the past several years as has Fabio. Roberto's "duck stew," his interpretation of "virtual caviar." World class. But there is not a single new signature dish that comes to mind for Patrick O'Connell. His wine list? Incredible markups. Breathtaking.

By the way, the day will come when Portland, Maine will have a serious candidate for the national Beard award.

Edited by Joe H
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To be eligible for the national Best Chef award, one must first win the regional Best Chef award. The regions are:

New York City

California

Mid-Atlantic (including DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA, WV)

Northeast (including NY State outside of NY City, CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)

Midwest (IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NB, OH, WI)

Pacific Northwest (AK, ID, HI, MT, ND, OR, SD, WA, WY)

Southeast (AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN)

Southwest (AR, AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX, UT)

By definition, a different New York City chef will advance into the national pool each year, whereas a DC chef must win the regional award over six other states in order to advance.

The DC Chefs currently eligible for the national award are Richard (who won the California regional award in 1992), Kinkead (1995), Donna (1996) Buben (1999), Andres (2003), and Cashion (2004).

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It is not considered a Washington, D. C. area restaurant.  I also believe it is not as good as several restaurants in the D. C. area, proper, today.  I believe that awarding a restaurant, an "Inn" 80 miles outside of Washington or Boston or Philadelphia or Baltimore or Pittsburgh or Richmond, is "non threatening" (for lack of a better word).  Patrick O'Connell has a fantastic amount of talent but I think he is resting on this.  It would be extremely interesting if he would totally revamp his menu and felt the challenge that he must have in the '80's.  Michel has introduced a number of extraordinarily creative dishes in the past several years as has Fabio.  Roberto's "duck stew," his interpretation of "virtual caviar."  World class. But there is not a single new signature dish that comes to mind for Patrick O'Connell.  His wine list?  Incredible markups.  Breathtaking.

By the way, the day will come when Portland, Maine will have a serious candidate for the national Beard award.

Michel's version of the "virtual caviar" has been on the regular menu for a long time. Roberto's duck stew, regardless of how wonderful, is not going to be taken into consideration by the Beard folks as it was done as a one time only special dinner. Does he really deserve that type of award for his work in the Lab? Probably, but I think the regular restaurant brings his overall stock down. And the Inn is not the only place that has breathtaking markups.

While I think that DC chefs deserve more positive press, politics always play a role.

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