Good Eats

What James Beard Nominees Did Last Night

By Jed PortmanMarch 19, 2013

Yesterday morning, at Charleston’s Lowndes Grove Plantation, officials from the James Beard Foundation announced the nominees for this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards. Often described as the Oscars of the food world, the awards recognize chefs, food writers, restaurateurs, and other food and beverage professionals who are performing at the tops of their respective fields.

Photo by Alice Keeney

This year’s ceremony was the first in Charleston, a city chosen for its growing influence in the food world. And the nominees reflected the culinary strength of the region, with all three award-nominated American cookbooks—Fire In My Belly by Kevin Gillespie, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, and Southern Comfort by Alison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing—focused on the foods of Dixie.

While the awards themselves won’t be issued until the first week of May, a nomination is still a major honor in the culinary world. We caught up with some of the Southern chefs nominated yesterday to ask how they celebrated the occasion.

Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, VA (Best Chef Mid-Atlantic): “I celebrated at home with family. We had roast chicken, spuds, and a great bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin, followed by a dessert of Cashel Blue cheese and some TV.”

Vikram Sunderam, Rasika, Washington, DC (Best Chef Mid-Atlantic): “It was good to be nominated, but we are so busy these days that I really don’t have time to celebrate. When I do get off work, though, I like a single-malt whiskey and some good Indian food. Maybe I’ll celebrate with that.”

Ashley Christensen, Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, NC (Best Chef Southeast): “I had just gotten off of a plane from Nashville, where I attended Tandy Wilson's wedding, and rolled straight into work to cook a Matteo Correggia wine dinner. With all the excitement of the day, I honestly forgot to eat. Joseph Lenn sent me a picture of the bottle of Champagne that he was drinking, so I celebrated vicariously through him. That said, I slept like a baby. I'm looking forward to Champagne-a-plenty in NYC on May 6th.”

Edward Lee, 610 Magnolia, Louisville, KY (Best Chef Southeast): “Last night happened to be the night that I teach a charity cooking class in the south side of Louisville, so I was toasting apple juice with a gymnasium of kids who may one day be chefs themselves.”

Joseph Lenn, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN (Best Chef Southeast): After a glass of champagne (Stephane Coquillette Carte d’Or, to be specific), Lenn tucked into a staff meal and went back to work.

Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta, GA (Best Chef Southeast): Satterfield was hungry when he tuned in to the live broadcast of the James Beard Foundation’s nominations. So he was eating a reheated rice-and-bean burrito when he heard that he was a finalist for Best Chef Southeast. Later on, he celebrated in style with a group of Miller Union staff and regulars, a bottle of Pierre Moncuit champagne, and a piece of chocolate buttermilk cake from Miller Union pastry chef Pamela Moxley.

Tandy Wilson, City House, Nashville, TN (Best Chef Southeast): Wilson, just married, celebrated by spending a low-key night in with his new bride. “We were kind of relaxing, recuperating after everything. To tell you the truth, we just had a quiet dinner at home. And I don’t drink booze, so it was all Mountain Valley water and iced tea.”

Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans, LA (Best Chef South): “You know, I worked last night. And when I got off, I was beat. So I made myself a good Old-Fashioned and went right to sleep.”

Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, LA (Best Chef South): "I had corned beef and bacon-braised brussels sprouts at the Commander's Palace family meal. It was just a regular night in the kitchen for me. But I popped open a bottle of champagne when I finally got home."

Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans, LA (Best Chef South): "I grabbed a bottle of prosecco before I left work late last night and went home to my wife, Emily, who had takeout waiting in the fridge. It was one of those great nights at home. We ate, hung with the dogs, watched our favorite TV show, and, of course, toasted our trip to NYC in May. Life doesn't get any better."

Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans, LA (Best Chef South): “Some friends and I went out for Vietnamese food—which was delicious, by the way—and called it an early night. I’m trying not to celebrate too much just yet.”

Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin, TX (Best Chef Southwest): "I was at the restaurant prepping with three of the guys when I received word via text that I was a finalist for Best Chef Southwest. It was about noon. We took a celebratory shot of 'cooking only' tequila—this is a beer-and-wine-only establishment, after all—and got back to prep."

Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston, TX (Best Chef Southwest): “It was a pretty busy Monday, so I ended up going with homemade beef jerky and a glass of Willet Rye when I finally got off.”

Mike Lata, The Ordinary, Charleston, SC (Best New Restaurant): Around the time that Lata and business partner Adam Nemirow opened The Ordinary last winter, a customer gave the two a celebratory bottle of Krug champagne. Yesterday afternoon, after the Charleston seafood palace got its nod from the James Beard Foundation, Lata and Nemirow popped the cork. After a drink, Lata went right back to work prepping for the evening’s gala dinner.

Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, SC (Outstanding Chef): While Brock, like Lata, was too busy cooking to celebrate much yesterday, he knows just how he will commemorate his nomination when he gets the chance. “I’m going to get a lobster roll at The Ordinary and put an ounce of caviar on it,” he says. “And drink some champagne.”