The James Beard Awards are a big deal, the Academy Awards of food. Sadly, due to the niche nature of the culinary world (and often times less glamorous), not many people are aware of the actual weight that comes along with being a winner, or even a nominee of the James Beard Foundation Awards.
James Beard was hailed by some as “The Father of American Gastronomy”. He was an early proponent of fresh, American grown ingredients and was partially responsible for introducing French cooking into the mainstream. Between his cookbooks and his cooking schools in both New York and Oregon, Beard gave a face to a newly realized culinary identity for America. The James Beard Foundation, founded in 1985 after Beard’s death, has been giving out their prestigious, peer voted, awards since 1990. Not only do they recognize the best the food world has to offer, but they host numerous events around the country to help foster an American culinary history and culture. Most importantly though, they give out thousands of dollars in culinary school scholarships each year to students of all ages.
At the awards ceremony that took place last night at New York City’s Lincoln Center, the Big Apple was the stand out of the evening, naturally. Though it has to be said that the Midwest really held their own by taking home Best New Restaurant (Next, Chicago), Outstanding Pastry Chef (Mindy Segel of Mindy’s HotChocolate, Chicago) as well as Chicago gastronomical mainstay, Charlie Trotter, being named the Humanitarian of the Year award.
Bringing one in for the home team, Chef Tory Miller of Madison’s L’Etoile was awarded the Best Chef in the Midwest category, which spans Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisco. With the care, the creativity, and the talent that Tory puts into each dish, as well as his passion for seasonal and locally sourced food this award doesn’t come as a shock to anyone whose ever eaten his food that he has been awarded such an honor.