Everyone loves a good meal, with many vacations planned for the sole purpose of packing in as many top restaurants and delectable desserts as possible before the return flight home. (If you don’t believe me, check out foodnwinevacations.com) Elevated to mainstream status by reality shows like Top Chef, Chopped and Iron Chef America, the Culinary Arts have taken food out of the realm of simple daily sustenance into pure, hard-wrought competition.
An epicure is described as a person with sensitive and discriminating tastes, especially in food and wine. For thousands of chefs around the country, little compares to the prestigious palates of the James Beard Foundation, founded in 1990 to honor the legendary father of American gastronomy. In food culture, these awards are sort of like the Oscars and the Golden Globes rolled into one – think major, major accolades. On Monday, the 2010 nominees for food, beverage and restaurant prizes were announced, raising the temperature in top kitchens around the nation. This year’s award theme is “The Legacy Continues” and will showcase emerging talent alongside their more established counterparts.
Five contenders will duke it out for the honor of Outstanding Chef, including José Andrés of Minibar in Washington, D.C.; Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco; Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles; Charles Phan of The Slanted Door in San Francisco; and Top Chef’s lead judge, (and no-nonsense celebrity) Tom Colicchio of Craft in New York City.
Additional categories include “Best Rising Star Chef” for contenders 30 years of age and under; best food writing; best pastry chef; outstanding restaurant design; and top restaurateur. There are 55 categories in all, with the winners to be announced on May 3 in New York City. Über food nerds can get real-time updates about the Awards at twitter.com/beardfoundation.
Photo courtesy Joan Garvin