Table Talk Online: A Recap of the James Beard Awards

I suspect by now the news has reached you that Tony Maws (Craigie on Main) has, in hand, his well-deserved James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Northeast.” I understand his staff feted him with a football-championship-game-winning style bucket of ice water over the head when he returned to his Cambridge kitchen. Those rascals. And chef Daniel Hume of New York’s Eleven Madison Park, broke character and was seen dancing on the bar to celebrate his equally well-deserved “Outstanding Restaurant” win. Good for Tony, good for Daniel, and good for the Beard Foundation to recognize their efforts and contributions in the culinary world.

Not to take away from Tony and the Craigie gang’s accomplishments, but I don’t understand why there’s a whole new list of nominees every year. I get that it spreads the wealth around and more people are recognized, but if say Jasper White won the best chef in the Northeast in 1995 (which he did), why can’t he be recognized again if his food is hitting the stratosphere today? Or Ana Sortun? Or Ken Oringer? Why can’t they win more than once if they are in fact the best chef/s? Come nomination time, a lot of names make it to the long (and sometimes short) list, because no one else is left who hasn’t won. Again, this is not the case for Tony Maws, bravo to you, but check the history. That being said, I do hope Matt Jennings (Farmstead and La Laiterie) and Krista Kern (Restaurant Bresca) make the cut next year—if you haven’t made the trip to Providence or Portland to taste their food, I urge you to do so.

Additionally, I was sorry that Barbara Lynch and Colin Lynch (neither siblings nor spouses) did not win for “Best New Restaurant” for Menton. ABC Kitchen, a terrific Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, did. I have had some terrific meals at ABC and especially at night, it soars (and they have taken a real stand on sustainability issues which is more than admirable). But what the Lynchs and their supernova team have done has had, in my opinion, more impact. In many ways, ABC is just another New York City restaurant. Menton has changed the way we dine in both the level of service and the creativity and execution of food here in Boston. I’ll go down with the ship with those words. Neither Lynch seemed ruffled by not taking home the big prize, but they are pros and their noses are back to the grindstone already, while mine is out-of-joint.

There were other great wins and upsets. And a happy note that Julian Van Winkle of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery was honored with the Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Award. I am a fan to say the least. I fondly remember the seductive amber elixir that was my first glass from the bottle of the oh-so-special Family Reserve Rye I tasted. The second is sadly a blur.