Beard Winners, Fäviken's end, LaBan recuses, Crenn's tough news, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, May 17th, 2019
Good morning, newly minted James Beard Award winners, honor-just-to-be-nominated-ers, and we’re-all-winners-as-long-as-we-try-our-best-ers! You ARE all winners to me.
Let’s get to it…
Beard Season – The 2019 James Beard Awards ceremony in Chicago is done and done. A bunch of analysis pieces will be coming out over the next few days, but for me the moment that made clear how important representation continues to be at awards like this came in the form of this tweet from writer David Hagedorn: “Can I just say as a proud LGBTQ ex-chef, we were always there in the kitchens, hiding when we had to, and now here we are, walking away with the Beard Awards. And [Lifetime Achievement award winner] Patrick O’Connell is the Pied Piper. #weeping.”
And now – not including previously announced awards – per the official JBFA site list, last night’s winners were:
The Outstandings – Baker: Greg Wade (Publican Quality Bread, Chicago); Bar Program: Bar Agricole (SF); Chef: Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Raleigh); Pastry Chef: Kelly Fields (Willa Jean, New Orleans); Restaurant: Zahav (Philadelphia); Restaurateur: Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of Boka Restaurant Group (Boka, Girl & the Goat, Momotaro, et al., Chicago); Service: Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder); Wine Program: Benu (San Francisco); and Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer: Rob Tod (Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME).
Best New Restaurant: Frenchette, NYC
The Best Chefs – Great Lakes: Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark (Parachute, Chicago); Mid-Atlantic: Tom Cunanan (Bad Saint, Washington, D.C.); Midwest: Ann Kim (Young Joni, Minneapolis); NYC: Jody Williams and Rita Sodi (Via Carota); Northeast: Tony Messina (Uni, Boston); Northwest: Brady Williams (Canlis, Seattle); South: Vishwesh Bhatt (Snackbar, Oxford, MS); Southeast: Mashama Bailey (The Grey, Savannah); Southwest: Charleen Badman (FnB, Scottsdale); and West: Michael Cimarusti (Providence, LA).
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Kwame Onwuachi (Kith and Kin, D.C.)
Design – 75 seats and under: Studio Writers for Atomix (NYC); 76 seats and over: Parts and Labor Design for Pacific Standard Time (Chicago); and Other Eating and Drinking Places: Schwartz and Architecture (S^A) for El Pípila (SF).
P.S. The city of LA has been a food media darling lately, but came up relatively empty handed at these awards. The view from there? Eater LA editor Matthew Kang took his frustrations out on the Best New Restaurant winner: “FRENCHETTE??? Come on. It's good. But not better than Bavel and Majordomo! All you have to do to win a beard is be new French restaurant in NYC. Batard. Le Coucou. Frenchette.” All you have to do.
The Resource – FYI: On accepting their award for Humanitarian of the Year, Giving Kitchen announced: “During May and June, Giving Kitchen is partnering with QPR Institute to offer FREE QPR Suicide Prevention Training for food service workers to promote self-care in our industry. This simple one-hour course will prepare you to support a teammate contemplating suicide. It will be immediately impactful by making you feel more assured that you’re ready if one of your teammates needs help.”
The Close – In Sweden, Magnus Nilsson’s final service at Fäviken will be December 14th of this year, and the owners will close the restaurant doors behind him for good. Amy Scattergood broke the news in the LA Times, alongside a mini Chef’s Table / Mind of a Chef video treatment for good measure. Per her report, “[Nilsson] says that the singular focus he has had, an effort that transformed an 18th century grain storage house into a restaurant that has routinely been numbered among the best in the world, has left him. ‘For the first time ever, I woke up and didn't want to go to work.’” The knife-twist: “He purposefully waited to announce the closing until Fäviken was fully booked for the rest of the year… because he didn’t want the remaining months to operate like a wake, with diners coming to mourn or to gawk.” Your move, gawkers.
P.S. For the Media: If you’re wondering why Nilsson chose the LA Times for his announcement, Scattergood tells me, “Magnus gave us the story because I’ve written about him consistently since he came out to Los Angeles as part of Food Bowl… two years ago and we got to know each other. He also really likes how our Food editor, Peter Meehan, has rebooted our section. So he reached out to us when he decided to go out with his news, and I got on a plane.” Good get, especially since his Instagram post about the close makes clear he’s not giving any more interviews for a while.
Some difficult news – A note (unedited, in full) from Dominique Crenn on Instagram: “Beautiful friends, I want to share with you that this last week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel both scared and humbled and yet not alone. One in EIGHT women have breast cancer. I am neither alone nor unique. Although I am scared, I have an amazing amount of love from my family, friends and my team who all support me and lift me up. As I work through this new challenge I will be in my kitchen as much as humanely possible because being there, engaged in my craft, and with those I love so dearly is what fuels me. For all the women who have been on this journey before me and now with me, my heart is with you.”
The Critics – Philadelphia Inquirer critic Craig LaBan says Michael Solomonov has been inviting him on “research trips” for fourteen years, but, “after years of saying no, this time I wanted to go, too.” And he did(!): “Going to Israel with the CookNSolo crew would alter [the clear distance between myself and those I cover]. The Inquirer would pay for all my expenses, as it always does. Our strictly professional relationship continues. But to preserve fairness, it means I will not write the initial reviews of the restaurants that eventually come from this trip… Someone else will do that for The Inquirer.... I’m willing to relinquish a few reviews for the chance to do some things I’ve never done in my two-plus decades as a critic.”
Cool cool cool. Next up: A design research trip to the “modern Far East” with Stephen Starr, please…
And last and least – Seems a “group of diners” has been sending a letter around to Boston restaurants recommending menu changes. It’s broken down into a list of things that “have gotten old” and they’d “be happy to see less of” – think: “Oysters (the thrill is gone and we’re thinking about Hepatitis)” – and things they’d like to see more of –think: “Turkey (get creative)”. Chef Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow, Waypoint, et al.) posted the letter on Instagram but would like you to know you can “feel free to steal any of these ideas guys!” Nice.
And that’s it for today. In other awards news, I’m dusting off my tux and heading to Singapore next month for the 50 Best event on June 25th. Never been to Singapore, traveling solo, and very grateful for all your tips and tricks! Please reply here with everything I need to know (or links to said knowledge).
Also, know there are at least a few contenders / attendees reading this, and I’d love to get some interviews / casual conversations on the books while we’re all in town. If you’ll be there, please let me know!
I’ll see everyone here Friday for next Family Meal.
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