This week's tablehopper: winner's circle.


Red roses (and red Solo cups) at the Eleven Madison Park after-party.

Whoa, there’s Batali. Oh, hello Daniel Boulud. Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten… It would be a gross understatement to say the press room at the ~JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION AWARDS~ on Monday night gave me a serious case of ADD—in addition to having to balance my camera, record interviews on my iPhone, and run over to my laptop to post live updates to the James Beard Foundation Awards blog (I couldn’t even think about trying to get a glass of Champagne in the mix—although I certainly earned my glass of PJ at the end). It was quite a thrill to be invited as a JBFA correspondent for the awards, my first time to the event. (Huge thanks to the team at Savory Cities for suggesting me as a live blog correspondent—this was a wonderful, singular experience.)

It’s a grand event, most certainly. You really do see everyone (and I mean everyone), from young up-and-comers to legacy chefs from all over the country—I can’t imagine how exciting it must be for chefs to see their idols there, and it was great to meet so many fellow writers! I felt a tremendous amount of pride watching our talented West Coast teams accept their awards: huge congrats to David Kinch of Manresa for winning Best Chef: Pacific (and bonus points for thanking his cat, Ella, in his speech); to Timothy Hollingsworth of The French Laundry for winning Rising Star Chef (he’s a very gracious person to speak with, by the way); and to Nicole Plue of REDD for Best Pastry Chef—looks like the third time was a charm for her.

I know it must be disappointing to attend (some many, many times) and not to win, but overall, I saw a lot of excitement in the nominees just being there, especially for the three West Coast nominees for Best New Restaurant (Frances, flour + water, and RN74). And let’s just say it: it’s great to be in New York and eat our way through it. The hot topic is always “Where did you eat last tonight/today/this morning?” And boy, do I have my work cut out for me—I’m here until Friday, and now that my “work” is done, it’s time to hit the town. My list is terrifyingly long—at least I can check Marea, pizza at Kesté, brunch at Joseph Leonard, late-night hot dogs at the Eleven Madison Park after-party, and even later-night munching in Koreatown off my list.

So instead of re-recapping my experience at the Awards in the press room, let’s just let my posts for the James Beard blog do it for me (no need to work twice). I also managed to upload a Flickr album of my pics of the evening—I’ll have a full recap of my week in New York in the next issue of tablehopper. For now, I have to be honest—it’s the most gorgeous day outside, and I really want to be in it. (Or as Frank would say, I want to be a part of it.) Fortunately I have two guest writers today, because this one is tapped out and checking out!

Congrats to everyone—I raise my iced coffee (and my poor, tired feet)!

Marcia Gagliardi

View tablehopper Newsletter from Tuesday, May 4 2010