New York—The James Beard Foundation held its annual awards on Sunday, and just as last year, three Twin Cities chefs were nominated for Best Chef Midwest, and just as last year, three of five were not good enough odds as chef Adam Siegel of Milwaukee took home the honors over Restaurant Alma’s Alex Roberts, La Belle Vie’s Tim McKee, and 112 Eatery’s Isaac Becker (and Kansas City chef Colby Garrelts).
The theory behind splitting the massive Midwest region in two several years ago was to neutralize Chicago restaurants’ dominance of a region encompassing a huge number of states. Unfortunately, the current Midwest region, stretching from Milwaukee in the east to the Dakotas and Kansas in the west, leaves Minneapolis as the dominant restaurant community, garnering most of the annual nominations.
I would argue any of our guys deserved to win over Siegel, but because most national Beard judges are unfamiliar with flyover territory, most of the judges who vote in the category tend to be locals. Reasoning holds that Twin Cities judges are splitting their votes while Milwaukee and KC region judges are holding loyal to their hometown chefs, and there are relatively few other judges familiar enough with the far-flung cities to vote.
Actress Kim Cattrall and restaurateur Bobby Flay emceed the evening, chock a block with awkwardly written references to her fictional character’s libido and with cameos by foodie icons Tom Colicchio, Thomas Keller, Rick Bayless, Tom Douglas, Nancy Silverton, and others too numerous to mention. Chicago’s Grant Achatz was named Chef of the Year while Michel Richard’s Washington bistro Central Michel Richard garnered Best New Restaurant, and Manhattan icon Gramercy Tavern won Restaurant of the Year.
The event was followed by a crowded but sumptuous gourmet tasting of bite-size dishes prepared by current and previous Beard winners. It all took place at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on a sweltering 95 degree evening in midtown Manhattan.
On Friday night, the Foundation awarded its annual media awards, and no surprise, St. Paul’s Lynne Rosetto Kasper and producer Sally Swift took home honors for their weekly public radio show The Splendid Table, decisively better than anything in its class. Later this week, I’ll report back on some NYC food discoveries.