Young and Hungry

Making Sense of the Repetitive James Beard Nominations; RAMMYs to Announce its Nods Tomorrow

nominees_qt1As many of you know already, the James Beard Foundation Tweeted its way through the nominees this morning for its annual Beard Awards. The D.C. market fared well once again, both in the restaurant/chef and journalism categories.

Don't worry, I'm not here to toot my own horn. I'm here instead to point out a potentially troubling trend: The recurrence of the same names over and over again in the restaurant and chef categories.

For example, chef/owner Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve was nominated for the fourth consecutive year in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category. Chef/owner Johnny Monis of Komi was awarded a nomination for the third straight year in the Rising Star Chef category. Likewise, José Andrés was nominated for a third straight year in the Outstanding Chef category.

Let me hasten to add that all of these chefs deserve recognition. They are, without question, among the best in their field. But here's the part that troubles me when I stew over it: Their running nods give off the impression that the chefs will be nominated until they win.

This is a tough call. The best chefs deserve to be given a Beard nomination, but when the same ones get nominated, year after year, it starts to make me think the nominating committees are either stuck in a rut or too nervous to go beyond the usual suspects. Besides, does a master chef like Armstrong really want to win an award after four straight noms? Doesn't that strike you, on some level, as finally wearing the judges down?

Armstrong deserves to win on his own merit — and likely will, if selected this year. But I'm beginning to wonder if nominees should be limited to, say, two consecutive years and then be forced to sit out a year before receiving another nod. It's a thought. I'd love to get your opinions on the subject. E-mail them to me when you get a second.

By the way, here is the full list of nominees. My reservations about the process does not diminish my respect for the nominees. I send out hearty congratulations to all the D.C. area nominees, including Joe Yonan, Jane Black, and Bonnie Benwick at the Washington Post; pastry chef and cookbook author David Guas; chefs Peter Pastan (Obelisk), José Andrés (minibar), Johnny Monis, Cathal Armstrong, and Bryan Voltaggio (Volt); Kojo Nnamdi and team at WAMU, and pastry chef Amanda Cook at CityZen.

Closer to home: The nominees for the 2010 RAMMY Awards will be announced tomorrow at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown D.C. Y&H has seen an embargoed list of the nominees, and while there may not be many surprises, there are a few new features for this year's ceremonies.

We've already told you about the RAMMYs' long overdue format change, the result of much public bitching, but the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington has also added a long overdue category this year: beverage/mixology program.

Finally, there's one more change: The public will be able to vote for its favorite restaurant via an online poll on the Washington City Paper site. In previous years, the public had to send in a ballot pulled from WaPo's Sunday magazine. This year's WCP poll will be available online starting in late April. The public winner will receive its own RAMMY award.

The RAMMY awards gala will take place on Sunday, June 6, at the Marriott Wardman Park.

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