Last Night at the James Beard Awards: Pinks and Drinks

Your eyes aren't playing tricks the whole room was bathed in pink light.

By now you've probably already heard that this wasn't the best Beard Awards year for Chicago-area chefs. In fact, the fact that New York Times and Chicago Tribune posted spoiler winners' lists a solid 45 minutes before the awards were over, coupled with how shoddy the cellphone reception was in the auditorium, meant that most Beard-watchers probably heard who the winners were before even the winners themselves knew.

Still, what victories we did have were sweet: The Publican's Thomas Schlesser picked up a medal for Best Restaurant Design, and Alinea's Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas, and Martin Kastner took the stage to be recognized for their book Alinea, which won for Best Cookbook: Cooking From a Professional Point of View. Those unsatisfied with Chicago's two wins are welcome to stretch their sense of proprietorship to include Paul Bartolotta, a former Spiaggia chef, who won Best Chef: Southwest for his Las Vegas restaurant Ristorante di Mare.

While the unexpected journalistic leak of the winners was a bit of a deflation in the "rooting for Paul Kahan, Rich Melman, Spiaggia, and Mindy Segal" department, the relief of that burden did make the evening a bit more relaxed for your reporter after an initial Twitter-based confinement to the press room (which, admittedly, was not such a bad place to be, filled as it was with champagne, cheese, and the luminous besequined presence of Martha Stewart), we spent the rest of the evening bopping around among the chilly, glamorous auditorium; the offstage room where medalists faced their victory photo scrum, and the lobby be still our heart where a small army of female chefs were deftly preparing bite-sized tasting portions of their restaurants' specialities for the post-ceremony throngs.

Overall, the mood was buoyant, the chefs were smiling, the spirits free-flowing, and the crowd was fawning. And if only two women chefs were winners, and that didn't really jive with the evening's hot-pink-hued theme of Women in Food well, no one was going to spoil the magic by pointing that out right there in the moment. We just busied ourselves with more char siu pork tacos, duck hot dogs, and North Carolina pickle plates until it was time to head to the afterparties.

A complete list of the winners after the jump!

Restaurant and Chefs Awards Winners:

Best New Restaurant: Momofuku Ko, owner David Chang

Outstanding Service: Daniel, owner Daniel Boloud

Outstanding Restaurateur: Drew Nieporent, Myriad Restaurant Group

Outstanding Restaurant: Jean Georges, owner Jean Georges Vongerichten

Outstanding Chef: Dan Barber, Blue Hill

Outstanding Wine Service: Le Bernardin

Wine & Spirits Pro: Dale DeGroff

The Best Chef (Northwest): Maria Hines, Tilth

The Best Chef (Pacific): Douglas Keane, Cyrus

The Best Chef (Southwest): Paul Bartolotta, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

The Best Chef (South): John Currence, City Grocery

The Best Chef (Southeast): Mike Lata, Fig

The Best Chef (Mid-Atlantic): Jose Garces, Armada

The Best Chef (New York City): Gabriel Kreuther, The Modern

The Best Chef (Northeast): Rob Evans, Hugo's

Best Chef (Midwest): Tim McKee, La Belle Vie

Best Chef (Great Lakes): Michael Symon, Lola

Rising Star: Nate Appleman, A16 and SPQR

Restaurant Graphics: Denise Korn/Javier Cortés/Bryant Ross (Corner Office)

Restaurant Design: Thomas Schlesser (Publican)

Cookbook Awards Winners:

Book Awards

For cookbooks published in English in 2008.

American Cooking

"Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook"
by Martha Hall Foose
(Clarkson Potter)


"Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking"
by Shirley O. Corriher


"WineWise: Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting and Enjoying Wine"
by Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith and Michael A. Weiss, The Culinary Institute of America
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)

Cooking From a Professional Point of View

by Grant Achatz
(Achatz LLC/Ten Speed Press)

General Cooking

"How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition)"
by Mark Bittman
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)

Healthy Focus

"The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life"
by Ellie Krieger
(The Taunton Press, Inc.)


"Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China"
by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid


"The Big Fat Duck Cookbook"
Photographer: Dominic Davies
Artist: Dave McKean
(Bloomsbury USA)

Reference and Scholarship

"The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs"
by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
(Little, Brown and Company)

Single Subject

"Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes"
by Jennifer McLagan
(Ten Speed Press)

Writing and Literature

"In Defense of Food"
by Michael Pollan
(The Penguin Press)

Humanitarian of the Year: Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest).

Lifetime Achievement: Ella Brennan of the Brennan Family of Restaurants, including Commander's Palace.

2009 America's Classics: Arnold's Country Kitchen, Breitbach's Country Dining, Mustache Bill's Diner, Totonno's and Yank Sing

Photo by Helen Rosner