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James Beard awards: Another ignominious shutout for L.A. chefs and restaurants

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
Southern California restaurants continue woeful showing at the James Beard Awards

Southern California may be a dining mecca, but you wouldn’t know it judging from the James Beard Awards. Once again Monday night, Los Angeles chefs and restaurants suffered an ignominious shutout at the prestigious awards, presented this year in Chicago.

Only Los Angeles’ Lopez family provided a bright spot, earning one of five America’s Classic awards for their Oaxacan treasure, Guelaguetza.

Since 2000, Los Angeles restaurants have won only four of the national Beard awards — Mozza’s Nancy Silverton was outstanding chef last year, Spago won for best service in 2005, Sherry Yard was outstanding pastry chef in 2002 and Campanile was the outstanding restaurant of 2001.

In that time, New York restaurants have won 80 major awards, San Francisco 34 and Chicago 19.

In the last 15 years, only three Los Angeles chefs have even won the regional chef’s award for best in the west: Mozza’s Matt Molina in 2012, Lucque’s Suzanne Goin in 2006 and Spago’s Lee Hefter in 2005.

This year followed that same pattern. New York took best new restaurant (Bâtard), outstanding baker (Sullivan Street’s Jim Lahey), outstanding chef (Michael Anthony from Gramercy Tavern), outstanding pastry chef (Christina Tosi from Momofuku) and, stretching geography slightly, outstanding restaurant (Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico, an hour from the city — and it also has a Manhattan outlet).

Indeed, with Tosi's win, the David Chang empire in New York has now won more Beard awards than all of Southern California (Chang was outstanding chef in 2013, Tosi was rising star in 2012, Momofuku Ko was best new restaurant in 2009 and Chang was rising star in 2007).

Three major awards were won by the San Francisco Bay area: A-16 for best wine program, Rajat Parr of the Mina Group for outstanding drinks professional, and Manresa’s Jessica Largey for rising star chef (she gave a shout-out thank you to Providence's Michael Cimarusti for giving her her start 10 years ago). State Bird Provisions’ Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski also won the regional award for the best chef in the west, beating out Cimarusti.

Chicago’s the Violet Hour won for best bar program and Donnie Madia (owner of Blackbird, Avec, and the Publican among others) for outstanding restaurateur.

Besides Cimarusti, Southern California nominees this year included Petit Trois for best new restaurant, Goin for outstanding chef, Osteria Mozza's Dahlia Narvaez for outstanding pastry chef, Spago for outstanding wine program and Alma's Ari Taymor for rising star chef.

Asked why he thought Los Angeles did so badly this year, Cimarusti said "I'm not surprised. The winners vote and if you don't have a lot of winners you're not going to get a lot of votes."

Silverton was blunt and to the point. "L.A. won last year and L.A. will win again," she said. "We will shake it out of them."

With additional reporting from S. Irene Virbila.

Best New Restaurant: Bâtard, NYC. Outstanding Baker: Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, NYC. Outstanding Bar Program: The Violet Hour, Chicago. Outstanding Chef: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, NYC. Outstanding Pastry Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku, NYC. Outstanding Restaurant: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY. Outstanding Restaurateur: Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican, and others), Chicago. Outstanding Service: The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN. Outstanding Wine Program: A16, San Francisco. Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional: Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco. Rising Star Chef of the Year: Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA.

Best Chefs in America: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH): Jonathon Sawyer, Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland. Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA): Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore. Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, ND, NE, SD, WI): Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, MO. New York City (Five Boroughs): Mark Ladner, Del Posto. Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY STATE, RI, VT): Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA. Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY): Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, WA. South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR): Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans. Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV): Jason Stanhope, FIG, Charleston, SC. Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT): Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin. West (CA, HI, NV): Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco.

2015 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics: Archie’s Waeside, Le Mars, IA , Owner: Robert Rand; Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg, KY, Owners: Elizabeth and Dixon Dedman, Helen and Chuck Dedman; Guelaguetza, Los Angeles, Owners: The Lopez Family; Sally Bell’s Kitchen, Richmond, VA, Owners: Martha Crowe Jones and Scott Jones; Sevilla Restaurant, NYC, Owners: Jose Lloves and Bienvenido Alvarez .

2015 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America: Allan Benton, pork producer and purveyor, Madisonville, TN; Dale DeGroff, mixologist, NYC; Wylie Dufresne, chef and restaurateur, NYC; Nathalie Dupree, cookbook author and television personality; Charleston, SC; Maricel Presilla, chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Hoboken, NJ.  

2015 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year: Michel Nischan, chief executive, president and co-founder of Wholesome Wave, Westport, CT. 2015 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago.

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