At The Pinnacle: Beard Award winners for outstanding restaurant Rick and Deann Bayless (top); Michel Richard (below), outstanding chef honoree.
Salute!: Momofuku Noodle Bar chef/owner David Chang, the 2007 rising star Chef of the Year.
Quartet: Outstanding regional chef honorees (top to bottom) Celina Tio (Midwest); Donald Link (south); Grant Achatz (Great Lakes) Traci Des Jardins (Pacific).
A quick look at the winners' list from the 2007 edition of the James Beard Foundation Awards tells the tale: The organization recognizes that much of the best food and service in the country can increasingly be found outside of Manhattan. Once decidedly New York City-centric, or perhaps even midtown Manhattan-centric, the Beard Awards this year found excellence in every corner of the land.
Not that New York City chefs and operators came away empty-handed. The Best New Restaurant honor went to New York's L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and Le Bernardin's Michael Laskonis took home the Outstanding Pastry Chef award. Part-time New Yorker Thomas Keller—his Per Se is in Manhattan, while the now-legendary French Laundry is in Yountville, CA—was chosen as Outstanding Retaurateur. David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar joined this list of New York culinary greats by being named Rising Star Chef of the Year.
But some of the country's other notable restaurant towns got in on the act, too. Beard voters decided that the Outstanding Restaurant of the Year can be found in Chicago, at Rick and Deann Bayless's Frontera Grill. The country's Outstanding Chef comes from Washington, DC, where Michel Richard mans the stoves at Citronelle. It was a big night for Richard and Citronelle, also given the Outstanding Wine Service Award. Rick Tramonto and partner Gale Gand were the winners of the Outstanding Service Award for their standout Chicago operation, Tru.
California got a nod when Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino, CA, was named Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional. But Los Angeles and San Francisco were mostly shut out in the 2007 Awards. So was Las Vegas, a rising culinary center that has yet to garner much notice from Beard Award voters.
The prestigious Best Chefs in America Awards, presented by American Express, went to the following star-studded group:
- Great Lakes: Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago.
- Pacific: Traci Des Jardins, Jardiniere, San Francisco.
- Southwest: Nobuo Fukuda, Sea Saw, Scottsdale, AZ.
- South: Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans.
- Southeast: Scott Peacock, Watershed, Decatur, GA.
- Northwest: John Sundstrom, Lark, Seattle.
- Midwest: Celina Tio, The American Restaurant, Kansas City, MO
- New York City: David Waltuck, Chanterelle.
- Mid-Atlantic: a tie between R. J. Cooper, Vidalia, Washington, DC and Frank Ruta, Palena, Washington, DC.
Six smaller regional restaurants received America's Classics Awards: Aunt Carrie's, Narragansett, RI; Brookville Hotel, Abilene, KS; Doe's Eat Place, Greenville, MS; The Pickwick, Duluth, MN; Primanti Brothers, Pittsburgh, PA; and Weaver D's, Athens, GA.
Cookbook author Barbara Kafka was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Art Smith, head of the Common Threads Foundation, was named Humanitarian of the Year.
Both winners in the Restaurant Design and Graphic Award categories hailed from New York City. The Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design went to Lewis. Tsurumake. Lewis LTL Architects for their work on Xing Restaurant. Baron and Baron received the Outstanding Restaurant Graphics Award for their work at the New York City outpost of Stephen Starr's Buddakan.
How are all these people chosen? Anyone can nominate a chef or restaurant for a Beard Award. A panel of more than 400 judges—previous winners, critics and food editors—winnows the nominees down to a short list of five. The same group then selects the winners.