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James Beard Awards Ceremony Tonight

Written By Scott Joseph On May 9, 2011

Tonight the James Beard Awards will be presented at a black tie gala at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York. Often referred to as the Oscars of the culinary realm, the Beard Awards honor the best in culinary excellence from around the country. The ceremony is conducted in a manner not unlike the Academy Awards, with red carpet arrivals, celebrity hosts (Tom Colicchio, Traci des Jardins and Ming Tsai tonight), tense moments as the nominees hear their names read, and long-winded acceptance speeches by the winners. Thankfully, no bizarre dance production numbers.

That’s tonight. Last night, Sunday, was the traditional “Chefs’ Night Out” party where the nominees and others gather strictly to have a good time. I don’t know how much you know about chefs and cooks, but these people know how to party and party hard. Many of the attendees came to the party straight from their kitchens — it started at 10 p.m. and went on for hours. The gala itself is traditionally on Monday because it allows more chefs to attend without taking them away from busier restaurant nights.

This year the event was held at Chelsea Market, home of the Food Network as well as several markets and food purveyors. Much of the market’s first level was set up with food and drink stations — mostly drink (see reference above to hard, party). There was also a Food Network area that had been transformed into a nightclub for the evening, complete with DJ, flashing lights and happy chefs singing and dancing (even though there did not seem to be an official dance floor).

Friedman’s Lunch was passing out mini pulled pork sandwiches that were pretty tasty. I never did find out who was serving the pork banh mi sandwiches. (The pulled pork was better.) Bar Suzette wasn’t serving anything, but the day before I had a wonderful burger from BS, a thick and juicy, organic, grass-fed patty with cheese on a toasted bun. I recommend it.

There were also large tubs of truffled popcorn for partiers to help themselves to. I really thought the truffled popcorn thing had passed. I know I’m certainly over it. Come to think of it, there was so much truffle oil on the popcorn that it was practically soggy — maybe they were trying to get rid of the last of it.

Ran into Yigit Pura, the award-winning pastry chef who was recently in Orlando for the Cook Orlando competition. He and I served on the judging panel. Pura will be part of the  food and wine aspect of this evening’s festivities. Following the awards ceremony, everyone will spill out into the lobby of the hall where several chefs will have been preparing a walk-about feast. The theme of this year’s dinner is “The Ultimate Melting Pot,” and will feature chefs who are either from other countries or have adopted another country’s cuisine as their professional focus. (Pura, for example, is Turkish.)

The ceremony begins at 6 p.m., and I plan to be live-flogging from Avery Fisher during the evening. Watch the front page of the flog for updates, or get alerts via my Facebook page or Twitter account.


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