NEW YORK – Another year, another (the 24th-annual) James Beard Awards.
The black-tie event was held at New York City’s Lincoln Center on Monday evening, and there was plenty of star power and Champagne to go around.
Three Twin Citians were up for Best Chef: Midwest — Paul Berglund of the Bachelor Farmer, Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart and Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market. The winner? Four-time nominee Justin Aprahamian, chef/owner of Sanford in Milwaukee.
But Minnesota did boast two winners at Friday evening’s Book, Broadcast and Journalism awards. Amy Thielen won in the American Cooking category for her cookbook “The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes” and Mirra Fine and Daniel Klein were winners — for the second consecutive year — in the Video Webcast, on Location category for their “The Perennial Plate.”
The Beards — often referred to as “the Oscars of the food world” — share a trait with the Academy Awards program, and that’s an aversion to brevity. The show slogged in at more than three hours.
The official theme was “Sounds of the City,” but those on stage seemed to be embracing other motifs, namely long-winded acceptance speeches (one clocked in at 6-plus minutes), and a penchant for winners to haul their posses up on stage. Oh, and lots of Teleprompter-reading difficulties.
But there was plenty of charm to go around. After accepting the Best New Restaurant award, Ryan Prewitt, chef of Peche Seafood Grill in New Orleans, pulled a tiny orange toy out of his pocket and thanked his children for giving him a General Lee car for good luck.
After winning Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, Vikram Sunderam of the extraordinary Rasika in Washington, D.C., thanked his staff. “They work very hard ... sometimes,” he said, garnering perhaps the night’s biggest laugh.
The second biggest? When April Bloomfield of Manhattan’s the Spotted Pig — the year’s Best Chef: New York City honoree — thanked star chef Jamie Oliver, “because he didn’t take the job” at the restaurant, and she got it.
It was a banner night for women. Barbara Lynch of Boston (Menton, No. 9 Park) was named Outstanding Restaurateur and Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles was handed the evening’s highest honor, Outstanding Chef.
And four of the evening’s 10 regional Best Chef awards went to women: Bloomfield, Sue Zemanick of Gautreau’s in New Orleans (a tie with Prewitt), Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh, N.C., and Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland, Ore.
Two semi-Minneapolis connections of (admittedly minor) note. When Sherry Yard, former longtime pastry chef to Wolfgang Puck, was named to the Beard’s pantheon of Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America, she was shown with an image of her iconic Spoon, Cube & Cherry dessert from 20.21, the Walker Art Center’s former Puck-run restaurant.
And while an ageless Martha Stewart probably owned the best-dressed honors among women, the evening’s best-dressed man was easily Marcus Samuelsson. The chef/co-owner of the late, much-missed Aquavit in Minneapolis was nattier than ever, grabbing attention among the throngs in a vintage YSL jacket in cranberry velvet.