If there is any doubt there is a food god or a culinary goddess – then look no further than the last three-plus years of sublime weather that embraces the annual James Beard Foundation Awards.
This year’s even to celebrate culinary excellence took place May 6th in New York City’s Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center – appropriately tiered like a wedding cake – and on this evening, filled with floors of pastry, food, and drink fantasies.
The warm sunny weather served up allowed chefs, restaurateurs and beverage and drink professional to emerge from their darkened dining rooms (with that low lighting to better showcase their guests) or their steamy kitchens that are all too often cubby-hole sized warrens – to emerge into the warm spring sunlight and take their walk up the red carpet into the award ceremonies.
“Lights! Camera! Taste!” Spotlight on Food & Film was the tagline and theme for this years’ James Beard Awards, marking great food moments in cinema.
Food as inspiration and character in another art form: film – should have provided a very rich tableau and tantalizing narrative.
While there were moments – it felt more like a postage stamp or mailing label. Affixed as a send off. Or in this case, a send up.
Don’t misunderstand. At the ceremonies, there were a few notable nods – from the low: 3-D glasses. (Really?) to the high: Master of Ceremonies, Oliver Platt, TV, stage and film star – his producing role for the fool film fav, Big Night, which earns him food and film cred before he said “Welcome.”
And then there was Chopped TV host Ted Allen and Martha Stewart.
Missing was enough film star ingredients… And in New York City – a veritable ocean of star power – it seems odd that more movie stars were not featured. Where is Stanley Tucci?? Perhaps there was some star sucking going on due to the Met’s Costume event scheduled the same night …
There were amusing and noteworthy film montages that showcased food in film. All good and funny and dramatic. From 8 ½ Weeks to The Godfather to Julia & Julia to It’s Complicated (Meryl and food is a recurring theme!) ingredients and meals are seen as a powerful reminder of the role of food in our culture.
The Gala Reception Menu was a marquee-busting hit.
The featured chefs were asked to create a sweet or savory food or beverage – depending on their star powers – that was to be inspired by a beloved movie or favorite film.
While the crunch is on following the long – but not quite Oscar-length ceremonies – attendees are all-too-eager to get to the reception, bursting forth from the theater like Bugs Bunny and the gang, to sample the food and drink.
And to see and be seen – especially with a medal handing round one’s neck – in the food and drink constellation that is the James Beard Awards.
And why not? The food is fabulous and the chefs know they are being judged by their esteemed peers.
Interesting that the best vehicle for narrating the link between food and film is the Awards Program. The booklet is a veritable treasure-trove of fascinating trivia, acknowledgments, and collaboration between culinary and cinema artists.
The Q&A with the Gala Reception Chefs is revealing and fun. JBF queries the food personalities with the likes of “What movie are you ashamed to admit you love,” and “What’s your favorite movie snack?”
In particular is a “Roundtable Discussion on Food and Film” with a chef, an actor, a restaurant critic, a food stylist, and a professor, discussing “the history of food, debating whether Eat Drink Man Woman was in fact the first example of modern-day food porn” and picked the best food movie of all time.
They noted shooting table scenes are the most exhausting to shoot.
Food has been in the movies since the silent era age – mainly to depict action: think slipping on a banana peel or throwing pies!
The Food in Film Timeline is brilliant and worthy of an entire course of study. Beginning with Tom Jones in 1963 to Jiro Dreams of Sushi, 2011, the timeline chronicles the elevating role of food in key films, migrating from food as a character to movies about food itself, beginning with Tampopo in 1985, and Babette’s Feast in ’89 to Like Water for Chocolate in ’92.
The “surprise” favorite, and most successful food movie of all time named by the Roundtable is Ratatouille!
Cited as Rocky movie, in a way, the film is also cited for its accuracy.
Red Carpet Revelations
On the red carpet too, many or most of the chefs named Ratatouille as their favorite food film.
This Examiner learned that the actual cooking scenes were filmed with celebrity chef Thomas Keller preparing and cooking the ingredients and dishes on a blue screen so that the film star Remy, does indeed appear all-so-accurate in his quest to produce the best ratatouille in France.
Leave it to Disney to create a detailed, behind-the-scenes effort to create the quality of this enduring, memorable food imagery.
Drew Nierponrte was the first food celebrity up the carpet, his usual jocular and engaging, glad-handing a welcome site.
Chef Claudia Fleming, The North Fork Table & Inn was gorgeous in a lilac, one-shouldered chiffon dress. She was accompanied by her handsome and smiling husband, James Beard nominee, Chef Gerry Hayden.
James Beard award winning French Chef and cookbook author Michel Richard stopped and revealed his New York restaurant is scheduled to open in three weeks.
This year’s James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Personality/Host, Bizarre Foods America, Andrew Zimmern, and presenter for an American Classic Award, looked fabulous in his tailored suit. He proudly showed off his black evening slippers and cuff links, emblazoned with skull and crossbones. Must be a favorite food fashion. Thomas Keller’s shoes from two years ago also featured the pirate motif dancing on his shoes.
Zimmern talked about eating healthy foods, noting he and his son eat a lot of vegetables.
The most bizarre foods he’s encountered? The Dr. Seuss-like birds!
Talking about what doesn’t keep him up at night, and how no ingredient has yet hit a nerve like kale has, JBF winner Chef Rick Bayless, presenter for Best Chef Southeast and Southwest was friendly and smart and polite. As was Dana Cowin, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine Magazine, dressed in her own creation of full-length, fuchsia silk skirt and bluish-grey mohair sweater.
Maguy Le Coze, who later won for Outstanding Restaurateur, Le Bernadin, NYC, was au courant and so fashionable in her full-length gown and fur capelet. Being French, her fashion statement is in her genes, it seemed. So it was for André Soltner, French chef and cookbook author, who was elegant in his tuxedo.
Thomas Keller was equally elegant and not surprisingly, cited Ratatouille as his favorite food movie.
Ted Allen chatted it up and named Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory as his favorite food film.
Cathy Whims, Best Chef Nominee, NW and chef/owner of Portland Oregon’s Nostrana was a vision in blue-bowed Prada shoes and floral handbag and beautiful Tadashi cocktail dress. She remarked that coming to fashion-forward New York for the awards she felt she had to be attired accordingly. Chalk one up for this fashionista chef! She noted Julia & Julia as one of her favorite food films.
Food Network celebrity chef Anna Burrell is a bold presence on the small screen and on the carpet. She sported a blue sequined cocktail dress that showcased all her assets…
And then turning on her heels, she revealed to this Examiner, her autographed Christian Louboutin platforms. It read, “My amour, Louboutin”
A perfect red carpet moment. Burrell presented the Best Chef Northwest and America’s Classics, Price’s Hot Chicken Shack, Nashville.
Daniel Humm, last year’s Best Chef and a presenter this year for Outstanding Chef, stopped to wax about inspiring vegetables and his love for seafood. He explained how his restaurant “NoMad is meant to be more fun than the award-winning Eleven Madison – where one might prefer to go for a romantic evening.” His carpet plus-one partner was stunning in Missoni. (Sad coincidence that the company’s founder, Ottavio Missoni, died this same week.)
Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin TV hosts Debi Mazar and Gabrielle Corcos, presenters for the Outstanding Wine and Outstanding Bar Program were an eye-candy couple on the red carpet. She wore a plunging neckline cocktail dress.
Emeril was named this year’s Humanitarian of the Year for the work his Emeril Lagasse Foundation (ELF) has contributed to children’s education and the culinary arts program.
He was at times tearful, accepting the award later while on the red carpet he was all smiles accepting the congratulatory shout-outs. He says he always prefers to eat the good meat at his restaurants.
The ever-elegant and food thought leader Dan Barber, accompanied by his wife Ariel stopped to talk and plant a hello kiss. Later, Barber and his family-as-team, graciously and humbly accepted the much-deserved Outstanding Restaurant award, citing the talent and dedication of his staff who have been with Dan and his brother for collectively more than a century.
While it goes without saying that all the food and drink offered at the gala was over-the-top tasty, delicious and creative, a few standouts include, James Beard Award winning pastry chef, Milk, Momofuku Milk Bar, Christina Tosi’s “balled” desserts. Inspired by movie theater treats such as malted milk balls and popcorn, she and her team created the impossibly, decadantly delicious popcorn and malted milk bars. Like a jack in the box, people were seen jutting a hand to grab yet another, while whispering, “This is my sixth one!” I love that Tosi’s favorite movie is Desk Set with Katherine Hepburn. From one classy and charming dame to another…
Nicole Plue, provided her Jaws inspired toffee on a saltine to sample – WOW! And to take away in the neatly appointed and monogrammed wax paper bags.
Marcus Samuelsson, looked kinetic while helping to dish out his creation, jerk bacon and cow peas
Douglas Redriguez, Alma De Cuba, Philadelphia served up an incredibly seasoned crispy foie gras and duck “cigars” for dipping.
The whey soup creation by Chef Thomas McNaughton, Flour + Water, San Francisco was like tasting starlight: so fresh and intriguing.
Chef Michael Mina’s seared edible shell lobster was juicy, delicious and curious.
The Chilean Pisco served up the AKA Wine Geek with mescal that was smoky and spirited was a surprise. So too was the Sipping Tequila.
The Cotes Du Rhone 2011 from the Rhone Valley Wines was rich and moody.
List of Winners from the JBF Awards 2013
Highlights from this year’s list of winners include:
§ Outstanding Chefs: (tie) David Chang, Momofuku Noodle Bar, NYC, and Paul Kahan, Blackbird, Chicago
§ Outstanding Restaurant: Blue Hill, NYC
§ Rising Star Chef: Danny Bowien, Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco and NYC
§ Best New Restaurant: State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
In addition, special achievement award honorees included:
§ Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America: Eric Asimov (Journalist and Author, NYC); Dorothy Kalins (Editor, NYC); Barbara Lynch (Chef and Restaurateur, Boston); Zarela Martinez (Chef and Restaurateur, NYC); Michael Mina (Chef and Restaurateur, San Francisco); Bill Yosses (Pastry Chef and Author, Washington, DC)
§ America’s Classics: Kramarczuk’s, Minneapolis (Owner: Orest Kramarczuk); Frank Fat’s, Sacramento, CA (Owners: The Fat family); Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Nashville (Owner: Andre Prince Jeffries); C.F. Folks, Washington, D.C. (Owner: Art Carlson); Keens Steakhouse, NYC (Owner: George Schwarz)
§ Lifetime Achievement Award: Cecilia Chiang (Chef and Restaurateur, San Francisco)
§ Humanitarian of the Year: Emeril Lagasse (James Beard Award–Winning Chef and Restaurateur, New Orleans)
Highlights from the Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards announced on Friday, May 3, 2013, at the awards dinner at Gotham Hall in New York City included:
§ Cookbook of the Year: Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla (W.W. Norton & Company)
§ Cookbook Hall of Fame: Anne Willan
§ Publication of the Year: ChopChop
§ Outstanding Personality/Host: Andrew Zimmern, Bizarre Foods America, Travel Channel
§ M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award: Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, “Chicken of the Trees”
§ Audio Webcast or Radio Show: Fear of Frying, Host: Nina Barrett, Area: WBEZ, Producer: Lynette Kalsnes
§ Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location: CBS Sunday Morning: “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” Host: Charles Osgood, Network: CBS, Producers: Gavin Boyle, Amol Mhatre, Rand Morrison, Amy Rosner, Jason Sacca, and Robin Sanders
§ Television Program, On Location: The Mind of a Chef, Host: Anthony Bourdain, Network: PBS, Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Joe Caterini, Alexandra Chaden, Jonathan Cianfrani, Christopher Collins, Peter Meehan, Michael Steed, and Lydia Tenaglia
§ Food Coverage in a General-Interest Publication: Men’s Health, Adina Steiman
§ Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review: Tejal Rao, Village Voice, “Bangkok Pop, No Fetishes,” “The Sweet Taste of Success,” “Enter the Comfort Zone at 606 R&D”
§ Group Food Blog: Dark Rye, darkrye.com
§ Individual Food Blog: Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, honest-food.net, Hank Shaw
More gala reception food news up next.