Better late than never. I really wanted this to run yesterday, but I was exhausted. What a weekend! Despite appearances to the contrary, I truly thought this blog post would not include my name in it; I was as surprised as anyone.
I arrived in NYC Saturday and ate at Da Silvano, helping them celebrate 35 years in the business. I love the food there, and my wife and I dropped in to say hi to friends at Craft. We stole a moment to wolf down some dessert at the bar where Sean made us a kiwi elixir that gave me new found respect for this oversized gooseberry. Sunday we rehearsed the Media Awards and you can see all the news here . . . I should mention that I got to spend a lot of time with Kelly Choi, who I haven’t seen since we taped Top Chef Masters in LA last fall. John Besh, Suzanne Goin, Emily Luchetti, and Karen DeMasco kicked ass on the dinner, and the awards went off without a hitch.
Introducing one of my mentors, Thomas Keller, to my wife; getting the big hug from him on winning the award was about as fulfilling as it gets. He won an award for his book Ad Hoc at Home . . . I got to put a medal around Jon Gold’s neck, and he invited me to dine with him next time I am in LA . . .my buddy Kevin Pang at the Chicago Tribune won an award for his Cheeseburger series and Dave Sax won for Save the Deli , one of my fave books of the year.
Judith Jones was honored, as was Claudia Rhoden, and Colman Andrews won two awards, including cookbook of the year for his Ireland book . . . Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl won an award for Chardonnay Uncorked . . . Don Link and my Texas sweetheart, Paula Disbrowe, won for their book on Cajun cooking . . . The Saveur team took home a few awards, and I was thrilled that they liked my piece for their upcoming special issue on Markets.
Moving the book awards to the media night was a great move. This "first night" will grow to be as big as the Monday night event within three years, I promise. Otherwise, my big takeaway from the media night was this: The food journalism world has changed overnight. Several years ago, everyone was wondering about the future of the genre and despite the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the magazine and newspaper industries, it’s the rise of the digital media all stars that impresses me most. From SeriousEats.com to EdibleBrooklyn.com (both big winners), it’s the new media that keeps getting bigger and better every year. To the cranky old farts that cat called all night at the various presentations for new media, the horse left the barn a while ago. Get over it
Now, back to my evening. At the after party at SD26 I learned a few things . . . first off, Dana Cowin and I grew up five blocks apart in NYC, and we went almost daily to the same pizza parlor after school . . . Michael White, Rick Moonen, Nate Appleman, Tony May, Gavin Kaysen, Daniel Boloud, David Chang, Nancy Silverton, Michelle Geyer, the Lee Brothers, Elissa Altman, Suzanne Goin, and about 1,000 other famous food freaks are more fun to party with that I imagined . . . The food at SD26 is insane, and one young woman came up to me with a raviolo with poached egg yolk inside that was the best version of that classic that I have ever eaten. By the time we went to bed it was 3 a.m. and I was still too amped to sleep.
Congrats, by the way, to both Rick Bayless and Alton Brown, who are spectacularly class acts. Bayless (you have to check out Xoco next time you are in Chicago for his carnitas sandwich and beef caldo with red chiles) and I got to chat Sunday evening, and he was gracious and kind despite the fact that if I had a vote he would have won the award we both were nominated for. Alton and I spoke on Monday morning. He chased me down in our hotel to tell me what big fans of Bizarre Foods his family is, especially his daughter. Then I had breakfast with Lee Schraeger and we finalized the Cart in the Park event ‘hosted’ by yours truly for the NYC Wine and Food Fest on October 7-10 in NYC, tickets go on sale at the end of June.
My wife and I walked the red carpet on Monday evening at the big black tie gala, and then we sat in the theater salivating; we could smell all the food being cooked in the Avery Fisher Hall kitchen. After French Laundry’s Tim Hollingsworth won rising star award, I headed backstage with Kelly Choi to do our presentation. Thomas Keller, who I used to work for in NYC seven lifetimes ago, introduced me to Tim and he’s as humble as he is talented.
Then I went deeper backstage and was chatting with Wolfgang, Patrick O’Connell, and Grant Achatz, as we all waited to present different awards. I had to take a moment to marvel at the impressive quality of the successful people that Keller attracts and mentors; what a guy.
Wayne Kostroski took home Humanitarian of the Year for Taste of the NFL; he gave an awesome acceptance speech. The Batterberrys got a lifetime achievement award; Michelle Geyer lost (HOW!?!?!?) for Pastry Chef of the Year, and I was stunned. I had that one in pen. Alex Roberts took home our regions award . . . bravo to him, as well as to Isaac and Lenny. No one is a loser at this level, believe me.
Marea and my buddy Michael White won best new restaurant, and Colicchio won Chef of the Year. He choked up at end of acceptance speech when he began to recognize his wife from the podium and then he hightailed it offstage. He is a superior human being, and my wife and I tracked him down later to tell him so.
The after party at Colicchioo and Sons was the place to be into the wee hours of the morning, I can tell you that. This year the food event after the awards featured mentees of past Outstanding Chef winners and, as always, was the highlight of the weekend. The highlights, in my opinion, included Restaurant Daniel’s Jean Francois Bruel’s insane black cod confit with artichoke puree and razor clam vinaigrette; Donald Link’s dry cured sausages; Michael Tusk’s smoked duck; Jen Carrol’s rabbit; James Kent’s Salmon Tartare; D’artagnan’s hams; John Suley’s Spring pea custard; Mozza’s Dahlia Narvaez’ butterscotch budino; Curtis Duffy’s INSANE crab cocktail (maybe the best thing I ate all weekend . . . get to Avenues at the Peninsula in Chicago to taste this kids food); and Johnathan Benno’s vitello tonnato sandwiches.
The VIP dinner after that party rocked as well, but by that time I was hurting. Somehow I needed to rally, which I did to write this for you . . . but now I must stop before I pass out. But before I go, let me give a huge thanks to everyone who supports the greatest community in the world: the restaurant and food community. And thanks to Susan Ungaro and the JBF for making this whole weekend such a blast.