Last night was the big night for the nominees (myself included) in the James Beard Foundation Media & Book Awards--the "Oscars of the Food World" as everyone is fond of calling it, and a serious party for gastronomy's big time movers and shakers. David Chang from Momofuku was there (nominated for his cookbook), Thomas Keller was there (also nominated for his cookbook). Andrew Zimmern and Kelly Choi were hosting, Rick Bayless, Marcus Samuelsson and Jeffrey Steingarten all made the scene. And while everyone else was partying down in NYC and stuffing their faces with redfish and blue crab pearls from John Besh or Suzanne Goin's braised short ribs with baked ricotta, feta, pine nuts and black olives, I was sitting on my ass at home, eating Chinese takeout and watching Pretty in Pink on cable while my wife Laura kept up with all the action via about a thousand different Twitter streams.
Why didn't I go? A bunch of reasons (not the least of which being I'm broke). I've been several times before, had good times and weird times and rubbed up against my fair share of foodies celebrities, but this year I decided to ride it out from my couch. Click through the jump to get a run-down on the night's big winners.
In what some (but not me) were calling the night's big upset, The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts by The French Culinary Institute with Judith Choate took home the award for "Cooking From a Professional Point of View" over Chang's Momofuku cookbook (the former really was more in keeping with the spirit of the award, after all), and Keller's Ad Hoc At Home won in the "General Cooking" category. To me, the big upset was the Encyclopedia of Pasta winning out over Larousse Gastronomique in the "Reference and Scholarship" category. I mean, I'm sure the Encyclopedia of Pasta is a great book and all, but Larousse? That's like the Bible. Who knows... Maybe the Beard folks figured it just didn't need any more praise.
In the "Writing and Literature" face-off (where my book, Cooking Dirty, wasn't nominated, which will not stop me from shamelessly pimping it anyway), David Sax's Save the Deli took home the big prize over The Seasons on Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman and Waste by Tristram Stuart. All of these are excellent books and ought to be on the shelves of any serious grubnik. As for mine, it should only be bought by cooks, current and former, or people who really like bad language and stories about people accidentally deep-frying their own hands or drunkenly urinating on police dogs. And I wonder why it wasn't nominated this year...
Andrew Zimmern won in the "TV Food Personality" category for his show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel, and he accessorized his outfit for the rest of the night's hosting duties with a nice, shiny medal. The Washington Post took home the prize for best food section (after which, Joe Yonan gave an impassioned speech in defense of actual print readership, which was quickly picked up by every blogger and Twitterer out there in the night's best hit of sweet, sweet irony), Cliff Doerksen from the Chicago Reader won for "Newspaper Feature Writing," Kevin Pang from chicagotribune.com won in the multimedia category, besting my friend and nemesis, Robb Walsh, recently ex of our sister blog, houstonpress.com. But then another one of our affiliated papers hit back with my boy Jared Jacang-Maher (also recently ex of Westword in Denver) winning in the category "Newspaper Feature Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs" for his piece "A Hunger to Help." Congrats, Jared.
Finally, in the big "Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Reviews" category, it was Jonathan Gold from LA Weekly (yet another nominee from the Village Voice Media family), Patric Kuh from Los Angeles magazine and me all in contention, which was kind of like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Yahoo Serious all being up for a Best Actor Oscar. Can you guess which one I was?
Needless to say, I didn't win. Gold did, and deservedly, for the great work he does every day in La La Land. But like they say, it was an honor just to be nominated and to stand (virtually, from a couple thousand miles away) with writers like him and Kuh as the best in the biz. When Gold's name was announced, I applauded him from my living room (he probably didn't hear it, though), then popped the top on another Dos Equis and relaxed. Things had gone the way they should've and all was right with the universe.
For a full list of nominees and winners, you can check out Eater.com. And as always, big congrats to everyone who made the cut this year--winners and nominees both.
Also, keep an eye out tomorrow for the results from the Chef and Restaurant Awards which are happening tonight. Once again, I'll be on my couch waiting for the announcements to come in, and I'll have a wrap-up right here tomorrow morning.