Young and Hungry

D.C. Chefs and Restaurants Come Home Empty-Handed at the Beard Awards

Beard photo-225x300After watching one D.C. nominee after another strike out last night at the James Beard Foundation Awards — from Komi's Johnny Monis in the Rising Star Chef category to CityZen's Amanda Cook in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category — I thought for sure José Andrés would win the Outstanding Chef medal.

I mean, Andrés had all the momentum. He just was the subject of a glowing 60 Minutes profile and he had just told WaPo's Tom Sietsema he was opening two restaurants in Las Vegas. C'mon, if that isn't Outstanding Chef material, what is?

Apparently, Tom Colicchio is. The Top Chef host took home the top honors last night at the Lincoln Center ceremonies. Colicchio was about the closest thing to a D.C. winner, given his constant presence in our restaurants as he films the next season of Top Chef in the District.

The real D.C. area contingent didn't fare so well. Not only did Cook and Monis lose in their respective categories, but all three area toques nominated for the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic medal lost out to Jeff Michaud of Osteria in Philadelphia. I'm sorry, I've eaten at Osteria, and it's not in the same class as Restaurant Eve (whose chef Cathal Armstrong was up for the medal), nor even as consistently good as another local nominee, Peter Pastan, at the likewise Italian-leaning Obelisk.

What gives? I think the New York Times hit upon a legitimate point when it noted that Beard Foundation voters appear to be heavily influenced by celebrity chef restaurants (and their PR machines that constantly generate more favorable press). Marc Vetri, the co-owner of Osteria, is arguably Philly's biggest celebrity chef. Armstrong certainly rates on the celebrity chef meter too, but in ways I can't clearly define in this post-Beard Award haze, I don't think his star is in the same orbit as Vetri's. At least not on a national scale. Maybe I'm wrong. I'd love to hear your take, Y&H Nation.

One of the Beard Award highlights for Washingtonians had to be Carol Blymire's work on the foundation's live-blog page. You can review her posts from the event here.

As noted yesterday, the D.C. area fared far better in Sunday night's journalism awards, which might seem a little strange given we're often surveying the food and restaurant scene around us.

Regardless if the locals won or lost, Y&H passes along his congratulations to all the nominees. You can read the full list of winners here.

Photo courtesy of the Beard Foundation

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