CHICAGO — Chef Suzanne Goin took home the outstanding chef award Monday night at the James Beard Awards, and Chicago mainstay Alinea won the outstanding restaurant honor at a ceremony many consider the Academy Awards of the culinary world.
Wine Country was not forgotten, however, with Healdsburg winemaker Gina Gallo added to the Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America, along with celebrity chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, author Temple Grandin and others.
It was the first outstanding restaurant win for Alinea. Its chef, Grant Achatz, won the outstanding chef award in 2008 and has earned other honors from the Beard Foundation over the years but never the top prize.
Achatz's ultramodern cooking style has come to define the molecular gastronomy movement. He thanked his staff during the awards Monday night at Chicago's Lyric Opera for trusting him, having courage and "taking the risk to innovate."
Goin's win comes after several nominations.
"Can I just say, hallelujah, thank God!" she shouted after receiving her medal. She told her staff: "Everyone pop open a bottle of Champagne. It happened."
Goin's current menu at Luques has a California-fresh feel, featuring dishes such as ricotta gnocchi with morels, carrot purée and black truffle butter, and halved asparagus and garden greens with anchovy, black olives, pecorino and walnuts.
Paired with Dahlia Narvaez's win for her work as pastry chef at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, Goin's victory is a sign West Coast culinary work is earning its due from an awards ceremony that for 24 years was based in New York. The Beard Awards moved to Chicago last year. The host was Carla Hall, co-host of the television show "The Chew" and former "Top Chef" contestant.
This year's best new restaurant honor went to Shaya in New Orleans, which serves modern Israeli food. The outstanding baker award went to Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston. Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida, won outstanding wine program, and Ron Cooper of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, won the award for outstanding wine, beer or spirits professional.
Chef Samuelsson credited the geographic diversity of this year's winners to chefs' ability to communicate better using social media.
"What you're seeing tonight is an evolution of the last 15 years," said Samuelsson.
This year's outstanding restaurateur award went to Ken Friedman of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and Tosca Cafe in New York. The foundation's lifetime achievement award went to Leah Chase, known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine at Dooky Case's Restaurant in New Orleans.
Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, New York, won outstanding bar program while the outstanding service award went to Eleven Madison Park in New York. This year's Rising Star Chef was Daniela Soto-Innes of Cosme in New York.
Online: James Beard Foundation: http://www.jamesbeard.org
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