Deemed the “Oscar of the Food World” by Time magazine, the James Beard Awards covers all aspects of the food industry… So the website says! However, it appears as if James Beard may have missed out on a few categories that fall under “food industry,” like food technology, food manufacturing and product development! I would love to see some fellow food scientists in industry and academia taking home a medal for all of the technological food advances that have been made over the past decade. I am not just talking about the chefs who utilize gums and spray-dried flavor powders to make creative meals (they actually have won Beard Awards) but how about the guys who figured out how the technology all worked in the first place?! What about all the food microbiologists out there who are perfecting strains of lactobacillus so we can have smooth and creamy yogurt with live and active cultures, or how about the lipid chemists who created the whole olestra thing?… And everyone who has ever fortified, shelf-stabilized, decolorized or hydrogenated anything? They should all get a little something for their contributions to the food world.
While there are no food scientists up for Beard Awards this year, I did do a cross check between all the Beard Nominees for 2010 and the Research Chefs Association website membership directory to see if there were any RCA members nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award. As it turns out, there is! I would like to congratulate Chef Wylie Dufresne, who has been nominated for the Best Chef in NYC award. He owns wd~50, a restaurant that serves peanut butter pasta, Worcestershire späetzle, and smoked salmon threads on a bagel with crispy cream cheese. I have never had the grand opportunity to eat there, but after seeing the pictures on his website, I am hoping that he will win and have one of those secret after-hours James Beard award celebratory parties that are so difficult to find out about.
Speaking of parties, the Beard Awards will take place this Monday, May 3rd at 6 P.M. Similar to the Oscars, celebrity chefs walk down the red carpet while hoards of photographers taking pictures. At the end of the red carpet are the press people (including me) conducting live interviews with the nominees. At 5:45, everyone is shuttled into the auditorium to watch the awards live. I will go to the press room with the other media members, drink champagne, and snack on the gourmet cheese and cracker platters while watching a big screen TV announcing the winners. They give teary eyed speeches and then work their way into the press room, which becomes jam-packed as the show goes on!
Then there is the big gala event, a walk-around tasting event on the promenade at Avery Fisher Hall. Last year, the theme celebrated all the women chefs. This year the theme is established and emerging talents from across the country who have been chosen by previous award winners. The menu will include champagne-poached prawns, quail eggs with caviar, and grapefruit mousse.
After the big gala, everyone goes to the after-hours parties. These are not official sponsored parties, but the “private” parties that are hosted by nominated chefs and the restaurants who love them. Some of the parties everyone knows about (e.g., last year I went to Daniel, Nobu and a few others), but then there are also some secret parties that I kept seeing in live twitter updates. It was 2 AM and it seemed like everyone was at a secret party except me! Hoping this year to find them!
For some live Beard action, you can watch my 2009 Beard coverage on YouTube.
To get up-to-date information on this year’s event, just follow me on twitter (@culinologist). I will be tweeting live from the pink carpet, press room, gala reception and hopefully from the secret parties!