image description May 7, 2014

Things I Learned At the James Beard Foundation Awards

Things I Learned At the James Beard Foundation Awards

#JBFA

Every year a new crop of Bizarre Foods alums win Journalism and Media awards. This year Tim Byres led the charge for his book Smoke. Buy it. It’s a great one.

Amy Thielen is loved by all, she cleaned up this year and her son Hank and husband Aaron were by her side all weekend. Impressive.

Martha Stewart is simply amazing. She created an empire. Did her time like a character out of a Scorcese flick, then rebuilt her kingdom again. She radiates and has real gravitational pull that sucked me in. She turned on the charm and made my wife feel like a rockstar. Classy lady. She and Maguy Le Coze also looked HAWT all weekend long. Just sayin’.

Adam Sachs and Francis Lam are two of the most deserving people I know for all the praise and accolades they receive. You should read them if you aren’t already.

I know how hard it is to do a seated dinner for 500. And yes the food at the #JBFA should be the best meal of your life, but complaining doesn’t help. We need a solution. I think the issue is the amazing venue, and the limitations on live-fire cooking, not the awesome chefs (Satterfield, Quatrano, The Lee Brothers, et al) who busted their asses to feed people. Let’s find a way around this next year, shall we? Until then, stop whining.

Emily Luchetti and I fighting over the cheese course. #jbfa

Emily Luchetti and I fighting over the cheese course. #jbfa

Emily Luchetti is the best person to sit next to at an event. Charming, smart, beautiful and so, so funny. I adore that lady. Her leadership on the Board of Directors is much appreciated. Check out all the nominees and winners here at this link.

Tim and Nancy Cushman of O Ya fame in Boston are opening a slew of projects in the coming weeks and year, all in NYC. Every year we take a selfie together at the #jbfa and this year was no different except that now Eric Ripert calls them Chelfies as in chef-selfies. I like it.

Friday night we had dinner at Toro, Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s new place in NYC. The vibe there is superb. It’s a real NYC restaurant and obviously the food is out of control. The black rice with squid still haunts me.

Saturday’s Derby Party at Eleven Madison Park is the best party of the weekend (unless you count their insane after-party on Monday at the Highline Ballroom). Will, Daniel, James and their whole team are incredible people. Visionary, principled and they know how to have a good time. And it’s almost embarrassing how good a job they do re-creating the southern classics. They get it right every time with the music, the food, the people…all of it.

Andrew Carmellini’s Lafayette keeps getting better. Holy crap. That’s so hard in this business. Service is superb, food is insane (the bone marrow and snails are transformative) and the room downstairs is my new fave place to eat in that restaurant. Twinkly and intimate (in a basement no less!!!).

Red Farm’s crispy beef from the skilled hand of Joe Ng is worth whatever it takes to try it if you haven’t already.

Spring pizza at Barbuto.

Spring pizza at Barbuto.

Waxman, Travis, Jen, and their whole Barbuto team have created something magical on Hudson and 12th. It gets a lot of press and wins a lot of awards and everyone lionizes JW (rightfully so), but the restaurant should be a place that every chef takes his team to eat. Order the whole menu. Notice how few ingredients are needed to pull out incredible flavors and contrasts of temperature and texture. That’s what technique and balance offers if you pursue it for long enough. Magical food. Truly.

Smoked salmon breakfast in bed...I mean, really now...Fahk! Best hotel food anywhere...

Smoked salmon breakfast in bed…I mean, really now…Fahk! Best hotel food anywhere…

The NoMad embodies everything I like in a hotel. The lobby offers one of the best restaurants (try the new duck on the menu) in the city. Chef James Kent is on a mission to strip down the food to the barest of essentials and its working wonders. Mark Welker’s desserts are absurdly good and the service is impeccable. The bar has been recognized as one of the best in the world and they just won another #jbfa. Yet it’s the little things that make me a fan…order coffee and tea in the morning rush and it simply arrives right away. This isn’t a hotel for aesthetes, it’s a hotel for everyone, even the business traveler. The answer to everything is always “yes” and that includes full dinner service from the restaurant as the kitchen closed on Sunday night! Simply amazing.

Lee Schrager’s new book, Fried & True, had its launch party this past weekend. It’s a great read, and the recipes are superb. Lee hosted a killer event. He’s a smart guy, teaming with Adeena Sussman took a great idea and made it a great book. I spent most of my time talking fishing with Kerry Heffernan. The guy is obsessed and had some tarpon photos I was very jealous of. Ben Ford was around all weekend celebrating Taming the Feast, his new book…a great one.

Monday I spent some time with the folks down at the ICC talking about the World’s Fair and Expo next year in Milan, Italy. Come see us there at the USA Pavilion. You will hear more about this in coming months but book your travel now.

Red Carpet

Monday night was epic. More women honored than ever before and some real amazing moments on the stage and behind it. Holly Williams brought the room to tears with her music, Daniel Patterson of Coi noted, “[how] hard it is to be a chef and even harder to be married to one.” April Bloomfield, Nancy Silverton and Ashley Christensen all won awards and brought home the concept of “we” instead of “I” in a classy and touching way. DeNiro, Bloomberg, Sirio, Batali, Yearwood and dozens of others all backstage made hanging out a thrill. The biggest line for photos backstage wasn’t for those folks, it was ?uestlove. I think he might be the most popular guy in NYC. And rightfully so. Seeing young chefs who have become my friends win awards was so cool…Chris Shepherd, Natalie Pomeroy, Dave Beran, Jamie Bissonnette…all so, so cool to see them realize a dream. Heartbreaking to not see Matt Jennings win one for the incredible work he does at Farmstead. His wife Kate looked amazing BTW…as always. Charles Phan’s win for The Slanted Door was a big deal, as he pointed out his dad was “a janitor in a Chinatown restaurant and got me my first job as a busser…” and now he wins first award of this kind for an Asian restaurant. Says a lot about America and food. Congrats to all the winners and nominees at all stages of the #JBFA’s.

News from Mexico: Sean Brock is off of crutches and recovered from his joint surgery and was showing off some stunning pics of his swollen and stitched knee. It lookd like a Zampone! He is opening a massive Mexican restaurant project in Charleston next year and if I had to bet it’s gonna be pretty amazing. Alex Stupak of Empellón fame and his lovely S/O Lauren Rensler are also opening a new place that will part of the Empellón family but have amongst other things a tortilla program with some pretty amazing cool new items that I have never seen done anywhere else. I am sworn to secrecy.
Jordana Rothman and Daniel Krieger are just the coolest nicest people. Check out Daniel’s pics from the weekend here. Speaking of photographers, Daniel and Ronnie Rodriguez, Huge Galdones, and Ken Goodman, et al (sounds like a law firm) spent all weekend snapping thousands of pictures for dozens of media entities. They, and dozens of other photographers I don’t know as well are everywhere, always smiling, working their asses off and promoting every event and chef and restaurant and they never get any applause. Over the last 5 years these guys have become our friends and colleagues and have done more for the food business than any collection of other folks I can think of. You  are awesome.

Donald Link‘s latest restaurant Pêche Seafood Grill won several awards last night, most notably beating out Estela, Carbone, and Betony for best new restaurant…hard to do on their home turf in NYC. So happy for Donald, Stephen and their whole team. They love what they do and it shows. Donald might be, despite all the awards and accolades, the most underrated culinary powerhouse in America. He’s the real deal. And a great dad, which means a lot in my book.

Best funny moment of weekend was hanging with David Kinch whose sense of style and irreverent humor won the day at the Derby Party…he arrived looking like a 1960’s rail bird replete with binoculars around his neck.
Me: “You look awesome.”
Kinch: “You like it? I call this outfit Racetrack Scumbag.”
Not only is he one of the best chefs on the planet, but he’s a great human being.

Chang

Daniel Boulud and Barbara Lynch (congrats, Babs!) should host the awards next year. They were hysterical. Wow. Who knew? Congrats to all the Who’s Who nominees although as David Chang and I were laughing about, Kahan, Besh and he are all young guys…is that it for them? Pasture time??? No fucking way. Also huge respect to Barry EstabrookEd Behr and Sherry Yard for their inductions.

The after-parties were legendary and I am sworn to secrecy. Be there next year. It’s the best night in NYC, bar none. And yes, Michelle Gayer is engaged. Congrats to her and Raoul. Awesome.

A few serious thoughts… celebrating around town all weekend long with amazing food in beautiful places reeks of excess occasionally and at times felt almost immoral. How could we be so decadent while so many had so little? I have come to realize that the food community and their brethren do more for the most people of any group of its kind. I am so proud to be part of this remarkable team-at-large. Listening to Sam Kass and Mitchell Davis recounting all the work that the JBF does made me so proud to be a part of this amazing organization working hard on education, agriculture issues, food insecurity and hunger relief. You name it, we are on it. Our charitable work with scholarships ensures that a new generation of American culinarians is being readied to take on the hard work as we move forward. This is an amazing time in America and while the challenges are still great, the work is being done. Changes are happening. I can feel it. There is not a food business I know of, restaurants or otherwise that don’t have a charitable component to their business. It’s working.

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