James Beard Award Nods: Boston Yawns

1206383326Every March, the James Beard Foundation announces its list of nominees for Beard Awards: the foodie equivalent of the Oscars. This prestigious list honors the country’s top restaurants, chefs, journalists, authors, restaurant designers, sommeliers…even websites. The foundation then hosts a big gala in May or June to announce the winners, and everyone has a big party and compares medals and the cycle begins anew.

We send out our hearty congratulations to this year’s “Best Chef, Northeast” nominees:

Patrick Connoly, Radius

Rob Evans, Hugo’s (Portland)

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows (Ogunquit)

Michael Leviton, Lumiere

Marc Orfally, Pigalle

These are all worthy contenders, and they make New England a great place to live and eat.

So why do we yawn?

It’s my weak protest against the Beard Foundation’s repetitive approach to award-granting.

Because the above list is nearly identical to last year’s list of nominees, with the lone exception of Patrick Connoly, who takes the place of last year’s winner: Frank McClelland of L’Espalier.

Also–and forgive my hometown boosterism–Boston is rarely represented among the higher-profile national categories, such as “Outstanding Restaurant” and “Best Chef.” Typically, those nods go to a rotating group of celebrity chefs from New York and San Francisco (with L.A., Chicago, and Seattle making less frequent but regular appearances). It’s a shame, especially in a year when O Ya was just recognized in the New York Times as the best new restaurant in the country.

It makes me wonder about the nomination process: who’s making the decisions, where they live, and how often they travel to cities outside the foodie triangle. Meanwhile, the Beard Foundation has been trying to reestablish its bona fides after a recent financial scandal and rumors of cronyism. I wish this year’s list of nominations did more to suggest a fresh start for the organization.

p.s. Congratulations to Bostonrestaurant critic Corby Kummer whose work in The Atlantic was nominated in the “Food-Related Columns” category.