Saturday, May 12, 2012

The James Beard Awards 2012

It certainly was a star-studded night indeed...

and I got to be a part of it!

  Editor-in-chief Giulianna Galiano (right) and me outside of the red carpet

As a writer of La Papillote, I was invited to attend the 2012 James Beard Awards, which took place on Mat 7th at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The James Beard Awards take place each year to honor the top performers in three broad categories spanning the hospitality industry. The Book,  Design and Graphics, Journalism, and Broadcast Media Awards took place prior to this night, when the Restaurant and Chef Awards took place.

I was one of the privileged few to posses a Press Pass, which allowed me behind the scenes, along the red carpet, in the Press Room, into the ceremony and into the post-ceremony awards banquet. Phew, that's a lot of behind-the-scenes access!

Once I picked up my pass, I headed strait to the red carpet, where each of the nominees had a moment in the spotlight to get their pictures taken. I felt just like a member of the paparazzi as photographers and film crew members shouted to gain the attention of the nominees. The guest list that night was quite impressive, ranging from some of the rising-star chefs of today (NathanMyhrvold, Michael Anthony, Chris Hastings, Daniel Humm) and some industry greats (DanielBoulud, Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Charlie Trotter).

After snapping some pics, I headed inside to explore the three lobby levels outside of the Lincoln Center amphitheater. Chefs, mixologists, and sponsors were setting up their booths, running here and there prepping, pouring, adjusting and perfecting their products for that night’s festivities. Some of these chefs had been previously nominated or recipients of James Beard Awards. This year, they were there to present some of their finest dishes.  They shared the spotlight with big-name companies such as San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, Campari, Urban Spoon, and All-Clad, who also had booths set up with samples of their products.

Alton Brown onstage
When I finished exploring, I swung by the press room for some James Beard-inspired drinks and a little caviar, and then took my seat in the balcony section of the theatre. The show was hosted by quirky and creative Food Network personality, Alton Brown. He was quite amusing and kept the entire program lively and humorous. 

The awards show itself was a mix of presentations, awards, video clips, and even a scene from a play inspired by James Beard himself. Awards were given out based on region. The “Best Chef” awards honored the most outstanding in areas such as the Mid Atlantic, Northeast, Pacific, Southwest, and other regions spanning the 50 states. Then there were the awards for Wine and Spirits, Pastry Chef, Restaurateur, Lifetime Achievement, and Humanitarian. There was also an American Classic section, which honored hometown restaurants that have been local favorites for many years. For a complete list of categories and winners, please click here.

Once the show was over, it was time for some food, fun, and celebrity schmoozing! Each booth that had prepared food was instructed to present something inspired by a James Beard recipe. Some of my favorites were things like craw fish-grilled cheese, crab meat reuben with caviar, New England-style clam chowder with cheesy foccacia, and “almond-joy” cake with chocolate ganache.
Chef Goldman and I

I have to say, besides the food, being in a room surrounded by a sea of famous Chefs, restaurateurs, and TV personalities was overwhelming and amazing. It was a little surreal bumping into Whitehouse Chef Sam Kaas, or witnessing a conversation between Chopped personalities Ted Allen and Marc Murphy. One of the highlights of my night was having a conversation with CIA Greystone graduate Duff Goldman (from the popular Food Network show Ace of Cakes)!

     We Got To Meet Chopped Host Ted Allen!

I was fortunate to have such a unique and special night behind the scenes at the James Beard Awards. Luckily, if you are a perspective CIA student, or a current one at that, you're in for some good news. All CIA students are given the opportunity to volunteer at the Awards each year, as well as purchase a ticket so that they too can enjoy the night's festivities. Stay tuned for next year, because if you attend, you are in for a real treat!

Stay hungry and curious,

Blayre :)

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