New Orleans a Double Winner in Best Chef: South, and One of Them a Double Winner As Well

Written By Scott Joseph On May 6, 2014

Beard auditorium

NEW YORK —The 2014 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards were presented Monday in a splashy black tie ceremony at Lincoln Center. The culinary elite from across the country as well as New York (but mostly New York) gathered for the gala event, some walking a red carpet of sorts to be photographed and interviewed by attending media.

The ceremony was emceed by television personality Ted Allen and many other well known celebrities from television, the culinary world and even politics served as presenters, including Martha Stewart, Mario Batali and Michael Bloomberg. The theme of the evening was Sounds of the City and the show included musical interludes from musicians from cities considered to be known for their music.

There was a tie for Best Chef: South, the category that includes Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico. Both were from New Orleans, Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, and Ryan Prewitt of Peche Seafood Grill. Peche was also named Best New Restaurant. which makes Prewitt’s win in the chef category all the more remarkable.

New Orleans has dominated South region nominations for many years. This year, four out of five of the finalists were from the Crescent City. Vishwesh Bhatt of Mississippi was the outlier. Central Florida had four chefs on the preliminary ballot — Henry Salgado, Spanish River Grille (and now Txokos Basque Kitchen), Hari Pulapaka, Cress, and James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig. Central Florida has never had a chef advance to the final ballot.

San Francisco’s Slanted Door was named Outstanding Restaurant. And Sirio Maccione, legendary restaurateur of Le Cirque, was honored with a lifetime achievement award. Here is a link to the full list of the 2014 James Beard Foundation Award winners.

Beard SlaterDavid Slater of Emeril’s New OrleansFollowing the more than two and a half hour program, attendees moved from the grand auditorium where the ballet performs to the multileveled lobby where chefs from those iconic music cities were set up to serve. Best of what I tasted was from David Slater of Emeril’s New Orleans. He served a duck pate topped with a smoked tuna that was just wonderful.

Name dropping: Among the people I met and chatted with at the reception were host Allen, with whom I shot a selfie, Mario Batali, Marcus Samuelsson, Clark Wolf, and Danny Meyer.

One last note: It was nice to see Visit Orlando’s logo on the screen at the opening of the ceremony, recognized as one of the sponsors. VO’s support of the Central Florida restaurant scene — and its understanding of the importance of good restaurants to the conventions market — has been terrific. I hope they will continue to showcase the culinary talent that we have. The Beard Awards are very much a matter of marketing; so much of it is name recognition. And the judges from around the country who visit the Orlando area are more likely to venture away from the tourist areas to try the restaurants they’ve read about. It’s our greatest hope to finally, one day, bring the award home to Central Florida.

Beard receptionWhile the guests were in the auditorium, the restaurants serving at the reception were busy setting up in the grand lobby. 

Ted Allen selfieTed Allen was the master of ceremonies for the evening.

Beard Lincolc center

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