Now that we have the nominees for this year's James Beard Awards, the congratulations and complaints have begun. For every happy chef, rest assured there's one with a mouthful of sour grapes. The Awards have always had a mysterious aura, even for those in the industry. No one can ever quite figure out how it works. So in the spirit of public service, here are a few of the finer points on the requirements for nomination.
Yosuke Suga, chef at L'Atelier de Robuchon, is surely one of the best chefs in NYC, yes? But he cannot be nominated for a regional award because he has not been in NYC for three years. He will be eligible in 2009. However, if he changes venues, say moves to the Mansion in Las Vegas, the three year regional clock will start anew.
Grant Achatz's Alinea in Chicago was rated the number one restaurant in the country by Gourmet Magazine, so shouldn't it be a contender for Outstanding Restaurant? Yes, but Outstanding Restaurant nominees must have been in business for at least 10 years. Alinea will be eligible in 2015.
Once a chef or restaurant has won an award, they can be nominated in the same category after five years. Technically someone could win the same award twice.
but I don't believe that's ever happened. Wolfgang Puck is the only one, taking Outstanding Chef in 1991 and 1998. I always assumed (incorrectly) once an award was won, it was game over for that category. Perhaps people are unaware of the five-year rule? Attention all past winners, you can re-nominate yourself again. It's worth noting that Danny Meyer does have three Outstanding Service awards. But those are for three different restaurants. Union Square 1992, Gramercy Tavern 2001 and Eleven Madison Park 2004.
Just for fun...here's a flashback of the first award winners circa 1991. After the jump.
Outstanding Chef: Wolfgang Puck
Outstanding Restaurant: Bouley
Outstanding Wine Service: Square One, SF
Outstanding Wine Spirit Professional: Robert Mondavi
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Nancy Silverton
Rising Star Chef: Todd English
Best Chef Northeast: Jasper White
Best Chef Mid-Atlantic: Jean Louis Palladin
Best Chef Southeast: Emeril Lagasse
Best Chef Midwest: Rick Bayless
Best Chef Southwest: Stephan Pyles
Best Chef Northwest/Hawaii: John & Caprial Pence
Best Chef California: Joachim Splichal
Note: Best Chef NYC and Outstanding Service did not come online until 1992.
Best New Restaurant was created in 1995.