This is an extract from a posting in my monthly series of LA-focused food articles for The Staff Canteen website.
Earlier this month, the great and the good of the US food industry gathered in New York for the annual James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards, the biggest highlight of the culinary year in North America. Founded in 1990, the awards recognise hospitality professionals forexcellence and aim to celebrate, preserve and nurture America’s culinary heritage and diversity.
This year California won big, picking up both Outstanding Chef and Restaurant, the James Beard Awards’ most prestigious honours.
For the first time in a very long time, a Los Angeles chef took home the main award, with Nancy Silverton, founder of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, winning Outstanding Chef. The last time an LA-based chef won this category was in 1998 when Spago’s Wolfgang Puck shared it with Jean Georges Vongerichten.
Silverton is only the fourth woman to win the Outstanding Chef award after Alice Waters (1992), Lidia Bastianich (2002) and Judy Rodgers (2004). She beat other nominees including fellow LA female chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques; as well as California-based David Kinch of the two-Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos; and Michael Anthony from Danny Meyer’s iconic Gramercy Tavern in New York.
Silverton trained in Europe, at London’s Le Cordon Bleu and the Ecole Le Notre in Plaiser in France, and inspired by a lack of high quality sourdough breads in the USA, founded the now iconic La Brea Bakery 1989, which quickly turned her into the country’s leading expert of artisanal bread baking. That same year, together with her ex-husband, Mark Peel, she also opened restaurant Campanile, and in 1990 she won the James Beard Foundation’s Pastry Chef of the Year award.
After selling her shares in both businesses and experimenting with Italian ingredients, Silverton teamed up with Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich to open Pizzeria Mozza in 2006. The trio has gone on to launch Osteria Mozza, a more formal restaurant, as well as Pizzeria Mozza outlets in Singapore, Newport Beach and San Diego. She has also written numerous award-winning books.
In another West Coast victory the Slanted Door, the acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco, won Outstanding Restaurant. This is an annual award the James Beard Foundation gives to a restaurant that has set national standards in food, service and atmosphere for at least a decade.
Chef-owner Charles Phan, who first opened the Slanted Door in the Mission District in 1995 and moved it to the Ferry Building in 2003, pioneered the use of organic Californian ingredients in Vietnamese dishes while giving a new high-end twist to a cuisine not previously associated with fine dining. Nearly two decades on, the Slanted Door remains one of San Francisco’s top restaurants.
Meanwhile fellow San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson from the two-Michelin-starred Coi beat LA’s Michael Cimarusti of Providence and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Son of a Gun to claim the Best Chef West category. Known for his fiercely local and seasonal menus of innovative dishes, which often lean towards vegetables and showcase precise and clean flavours, Patterson finally took home this regional award after his sixth consecutive nomination.
Other Californian winners included the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, which won the award for Outstanding Service, and the Shed in Healdsburg, which was honoured for its interior design. And former Spago pastry chef and cookbook author Sherry Yard marked another success story for California by being inaugurated into the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious cadre of Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.
2014 was also a good year for female chefs, with Boston’s Barbara Lynch winning Outstanding Restaurateur; and British-born chef April Bloomfield being named Best Chef in New York City for her cooking at the Michelin-starred Spotted Pig. This is also good news for California though as Bloomfield co-owns Café Tosca in San Francisco and is rumoured to be planning a restaurant in Venice Beach.
The complete list of winners of the 2014 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards:
Outstanding Chef: Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles
Outstanding Restaurant: The Slanted Door, San Francisco
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York
Outstanding Restaurateur: Barbara Lynch, Barbara Lynch Gruppo (No. 9 Park, Menton, B&G Oysters and others), Boston
Rising Star Chefs (tie): Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig, Chicago, and Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, Wash.
Best New Restaurant: Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans
Best Chef, Great Lakes: Dave Beran, Next, Chicago
Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic: Vikram Sunderam, Rasika, Washington, D.C.
Best Chef, Midwest: Justin Aprahamian, Sanford, Milwaukee
Best Chef, New York City: April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig
Best Chef, Northeast: Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Best Chef, Northwest: Naomi Pomeroy, Beast, Portland, Ore.
Best Chef, South (tie): Ryan Prewitt, Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans and Sue
Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans
Best Chef, Southeast: Ashley Christensen, Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, N.C.
Best Chef, Southwest: Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston
Best Chef, West: Daniel Patterson, Coi, San Francisco
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional: Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Outstanding Wine Program: The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
Outstanding Bar Program: The Bar at the NoMad Hotel, New York
Outstanding Service: The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, Calif.
Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America:
Edward Behr (Food Writer, Vermont) John Besh (Chef and Restaurateur, New Orleans) David Chang (Momofuku Restaurant Group, New York) Barry Estabrook (Writer, Vermont) Paul Kahan (Executive Chef and Partner, Chicago) Sherry Yard (Pastry Chef, Cookbook Author, Los Angeles)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sirio Maccioni (Restaurateur, New York)
Humanitarian of the Year: Matt Haley (Chef, Restaurateur and Philanthropist, Delaware)
Outstanding Restaurant Design 75 Seats and Under: Project: Grace, Chicago; Design Firm: Lawton Stanley; Architects Designers: Maria Contreras, Christopher Lawton, and Micah Stanley
Outstanding Restaurant Design 76 Seats and Over: Project: Shed, Healdsburg, CA; Design Firm: Jensen Architects Designers: Scott Davis, Mark Jensen, Lincoln Lighthill, Dean Orr, and Andy Pluess