Beard Predictions: Outstanding Chef
Throughout the day, Grub Street will post its predictions for tonight's James Beard Awards. Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees.
"A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Candidates must have been working as chefs for at least the past five years." Recent winners include Dan Barber, Grant Achatz, and Mario Batali.
José Andrés: Jaleo, Café Atlantico, Minibar, Oyamel (D.C). The Bazaar (Los Angeles).
For Him: Esquire named the Bazaar the Restaurant of the Year in 2009, and the restaurant received a rare four-star review in the L.A. Times. GQ dubbed Andres Chef of the Year in 2009. He was a Rising Star nominee in 1999, and since then has been nominated for several Beards, including outstanding chef in 2008 and 2009. (He won Best Mid-Atlantic Chef in 2003.)
Against Him: Until recently, his efforts were contained to Washington, D.C.
Tom Colicchio, Craft Empire (New York, LA, Dallas, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Connecticut)
For Him: Colicchio has been nominated for 15 Beard Awards, and won several. He dominated the Best New York Chef award in the late nineties, winning it three times. He won both Best New Restaurant (Craft) and Outstanding Chef in 2002, and was nominated for the chef honors every year after except 2008. He is one of the most recognized chefs in America.
Against Him: Top Chef. The show raised his profile, but perhaps a little too much for the food establishment's taste. He opened Colicchio & Sons in an effort to return to the kitchen, but results were mixed.
Gary Danko, Restaurant Gary Danko
For Him: He received Beard Awards for Best New Restaurant in 2000, and Outstanding Service in 2006, and was nominated previously for Outstanding Chef in 2002; he's received three Mobil 5-star ratings and one Michelin star. His restaurant is consistently top-ranked in Zagat's San Francisco edition.
Against Him: He has a Michelin star, but it's only one star for one of the finest of fine dining restaurants in San Francisco. Given the consistently lauded service, that's not where the restaurant falls short.
Suzanne Goin, AOC, Lucques, Tavern, The Hungry Cat (Los Angeles)
For Her: Goin was named Best Chef, California in 2006 and was nominated for Outstanding Chef in 2008 and 2009. Four of her restaurants made Brad A. Johnson's Top 50 list in Angeleno, and Jonathan Gold called Tavern "absolutely the restaurant of the moment." and included it on his 2009 list of 99 essential L.A. restaurants.
Against Her: Not all of the reviews for Tavern were so positive: The L.A. Times called the restaurant a wee bit disappointing, and Los Angelos Magazine's Patrick Kuh said "too many dishes have a tone-deaf quality."
Charles Phan, The Slanted Door and Heaven's Dog in San Francisco.
For Him: Phan won Best Chef, California, in 2004, and his Slanted Door was shortlisted for Outstanding Restaurant in 2008. The Slanted Door was San Francisco's highest-grossing restaurant last year, and Bon App deemed it one of the "Top Ten New Asian Noodle Bars."
Against Him: He lost an Iron Chef battle to Cat Cora over almonds, and he's still waiting for a Michelin star. Slanted Door was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant in 2008, but never again.
Grub Street Predicts: José Andrés
Danko's service can sometimes outshine his food. Colicchio is too far out of the kitchen. Chefs love Phan's noodles, but are they ready to award their highest honor to an upscale noodle bar? Goin could be a contender not only because a woman hasn't won an Outstanding Chef award since 2004 but her latest restaurant's mixed reviews hold her back. Andrés is lauded on both coasts and has been nominated for this award for the past two years. It's his turn.