The celebration of American food known as the James Beard Foundation Awards, hosted for the first time in Chicago this evening, showed itself to be a celebration of New York food, as five of the eleven top national awards went to individuals or institutions from the Empire State. Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, New York, won Outstanding Restaurant. Michael Anthony of New York’s Gramercy Tavern won Outstanding Chef. Christina Tosi of New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar won Outstanding Pastry Chef. Bâtard in New York won Best New Restaurant. And Jim Lahey of New York's Sullivan Street Bakery won Outstanding Baker. Now you know: You can take the Beards out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the Beards.
Outside of New York, Jessica Largey, chef de cuisine at David Kinch’s two-Michelin starred Manresa, was tapped with the prestigious Rising Star Chef award. Outstanding Restaurateur went to Donnie Madia of Chicago’s Publican and Blackbird. Best bar went to Chicago’s Violet Hour, while A16 in San Francisco won outstanding wine program. And while Chicago had a good showing, especially with a lifetime achievement award for Lettuce Entertain You's Richard Melman, it's worth noting the following incongruity: the host city didn't garner a single award for any of its chefs.
Here's what you need to know about the winners, the losers, and the overall awards, which are deemed the Oscars of the culinary world:
- Los Angeles Shutout (update): Chicago chefs weren't the only ones who came home empty-handed. As Eater's Matt Kang points out, Los Angeles didn't win a single Beard, discounting the America's Classic award announced in February for restaurant Guelaguetza. The city went into the ceremony with six nominations, including nods for Best New Restaurant (Petit Trois), Outstanding Chef (Suzanne Goin), Outstanding Pastry Chef (Dahlia Narvaez, Osteria Mozza), Rising Star Chef (Ari Taymor, Alma), and Best Chef West (Michael Cimarusti, Providence, as well as for the chefs at Animal).
- Outstanding Chef: In winning this award, Gramercy Tavern's Michael Anthony beat out a field of seasoned chefs, including Sean Brock of Husk, Suzanne Goin of Lucques, Donald Link of Herbsaint, and Marc Vetri of the namesake Philadelphia restaurant. "Anthony is putting out clean American fare that's occasionally as breathtaking as anything at Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns," I wrote in my review of Gramercy Tavern earlier this year.
- Vegetable Nation: The Beard committee sent a clear message in honoring lighter, vegetable-focused, greenmarket fare at tonight's ceremony, with big wins for Gramercy Tavern's Anthony, for Barber's Stone Barns (where Anthony once worked as executive chef), and for Manresa's Jessica Largey.
- Outstanding Restaurant: The famously anonymous Michelin inspectors have never rated Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns; maybe they will now since the Beard committee has essentially named it America's best restaurant. Less than an hour's drive from New York City, Stone Barns serves four-hour tastings where vegetables can make up 60 percent or more of the meal and where guests are sometimes escorted out into a separate, open-air manure shed for DIY kohlrabi tacos.
- The Price Hike: Stone Barns is one of the country's more expensive restaurants. The menu now runs $218 per person, up from last year's price of $198. That means after optional wine pairings, tax, and 20 percent tip, dinner for two will now cost just shy of $940.
- New York versus Alabama: The Outstanding Restaurant category was heavily weighted to New York, with four of the five nominees hailing from that state: Stone Barns (the winner), Momofuku Noodle Bar, The Spotted Pig, and Per Se. The only non-NY nominee was Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham Alabama, which Eater's Bill Addison praised in a review this winter. Before today, 12 of the 24 outstanding restaurant wins since 1990 have went to New York restaurants, as Eater's Erin DeJesus reported. So, for those keeping score, make that 13 out of 28 for NYC now.
- Best New Restaurant: Bâtard — Marcus Glocker, John Winterman, and Drew Nieporent's Austrian-themed restaurant in the space that used to house Corton and Montrachet — beat out a strong group of competitors, including Gavin Kaysen's Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis (Kaysen was the longtime chef de cuisine at Cafe Boulud), Parachute in Chicago, Petit Trois in Los Angeles, The Progress in San Francisco, and Cosme, Enrique Olvera's critically-acclaimed and envelope-pushing Mexican restaurant, in New York.
- Rising Star Chef: Jessica Largey, chef de cuisine at David Kinch's Manresa, which reopened on New Year's eve following a devastating fire, beat out Alma's Taymor and others for this coveted award, which, in the past, has gone to such notable chefs as Corey Lee (now at Benu), and Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese). Manresa, which sells a single tasting at $198, is known for its light, Asian-accented, vegetables-seasoned-with-meat approach to cuisine.
- No Rising Stars in NYC? This rising star category was notable this year because no one from New York City was nominated; 11 NYC chefs have won the award since 1990.
- Outstanding Pastry Chef: Christina Tosi, a previous Rising Star Chef, and who lost to Cronut king Dominique Ansel in 2014, prevailed this year. Much to the dismay of classic French pastry chefs, Tosi is known for her creative elevation of American junk food, putting out mind-bendingly delicious treats such as bottled cereal milk, birthday cake truffles, and croissants stuffed with a mini Thanksgiving dinner.
- Outstanding Baker: Here's what Jim Lahey, the winner of this award, told Eater last year: "I am never going to get a James Beard Award unless I am dying, at which point they may throw me a bone and give me a lifetime achievement award." It appears, in retrospect, that Lahey was mistaken, unless he's dying, which we hope he isn't.
- Best Chef, New York: This was the year for Del Posto's Mark Ladner to win, beating out Hearth's Marco Canora, Estela's Ignacio Mattos, the Torrisi Boys, Barbuto's Jonathan Waxman, and Annisa's Anita Lo. I called my November dinner at Del Posto my best meal of 2014.
- Outstanding Bar Program: The victor was Chicago's Violet Hour, one of the country's most celebrated drinking establishments, where bartenders like Craig Schoettler*, late of the Aviary, and Maura McGuigan, late of Booker & Dax, have rose to fame. Violet out beat out Arnaud's French 75 Bar in New Orleans, Bar Agricole in San Francisco, Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, and Trick Dog in San Francisco.
- Michelin versus The Beards: In the category of Best Chef: Great Lakes, Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland triumphed over Curtis Duffy of the three Michelin-starred Grace in Chicago. And in the category of best "West" chef, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski of the Michelin-starred State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, known for its dim sum-style passed plates, beat out Corey Lee of SF's three Michelin-starred Benu, where dinner is $228 per person.
- Cities versus States: Careful observers will note that most of the regional awards are for groups of states; New York is the only city with its own Beard award. San Francisco chefs, by contrast, are grouped together with Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Honolulu chefs. Chicago chefs, in turn, are compared against chefs from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and the rest of Illinois; that explains why we have Chicago's Grace losing to Cleveland's Greenhouse Tavern. Such regulations are why some argue that the Beards have a bit of a New York bias.
- Other Major Regional Chef Winners: Aaron Franklin, of the namesake barbecue parlor famous for lines so long that people bring lawn chairs while they wait, won the Southwest category, while Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island won the Northwest Category; the restaurant is well known for being accessible only via a ferry, which costs $13 per car roundtrip, with payment accepted via cash only (local tribal members ride free).
See below for the full list of winners:
Best New Restaurant: Bâtard, NYC
Outstanding Baker: Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, NYC
Outstanding Bar Program: The Violet Hour, Chicago
Outstanding Chef: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, NYC
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku, NYC
Outstanding Restaurant: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Outstanding Restaurateur: Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican, etc), Chicago
Outstanding Service: The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Outstanding Wine Program: A16, San Francisco
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional: Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco
Rising Star Chef: Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA
Best Chefs in America
Great Lakes: Jonathon Sawyer, Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland
Mid-Atlantic: Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore
Midwest: Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, MO
New York City: Mark Ladner, Del Posto
Northeast: Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA
Northwest: Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, WA
South: Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans
Southeast: Jason Stanhope, FIG, Charleston, SC
Southwest: Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin
West: Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
75 Seats and Under: Project: Brindille, Chicago; Design Firm: Bureau of Architecture and Design; Designers: Tom Nahabedian and James Gorski
76 Seats and Over: Project: Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Palm Springs, CA; Design Firm: SOMA; Designers: Michel Abboud
2015 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics
Archie’s Waeside Le Mars, IA. Owner: Robert Rand
Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg, KY. Owners: Elizabeth and Dixon Dedman, Helen and Chuck Dedman
Guelaguetza, Los Angeles. Owners: The Lopez Family
Sally Bell’s Kitchen, Richmond, VA. Owners: Martha Crowe Jones and Scott Jones
Sevilla Restauran, NYC. Owners: Jose Lloves and Bienvenido Alvarez
2015 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America
Allan Benton, Pork Producer and Purveyor, Madisonville, TN
Dale DeGroff Mixologist NYC
Wylie Dufresne, Chef and Restaurateur NYC
Nathalie Dupree, Cookbook Author and Television Personality Charleston, SC
Maricel Presilla, Chef, Restaurateur, and Cookbook Author Hoboken, NJ
Humanitarian of the Year: Michel Nischan, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Wholesome Wave Westport, CT
Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Chicago
*Correction: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Charles Joly had worked at The Violet Hour.