Grant Achatz, Russ Parsons lauded by James Beard Foundation

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

AN EMOTIONAL ovation greeted chef Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea restaurant when he was named outstanding chef for 2007 at Sunday night's James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony in New York City. Achatz, known for his avant-garde cuisine drawing on principles revealed by "molecular gastronomy," is also a cancer survivor, and his award lent poignancy to the annual event.

Scholarships: In some editions of Wednesday's Food section, an article about the James Beard Foundation Awards stated that in the last two years, the organization funded $435,000 a year in scholarships and tuition waivers. That amount is the total for two years. —

Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali, named outstanding restaurateurs, head a culinary empire that includes New York's Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. Danny Meyer's Gramercy Tavern in New York City was named outstanding restaurant.

Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro says the nonprofit organization is back on solid footing, having been restructured and revived after ethical and financial scandals. Former foundation president Leonard F. Pickell Jr. pleaded guilty in 2005 to stealing more than $50,000 from the foundation.

During Ungaro's two years as president, the foundation reduced its $1.4 million debt by $1 million while funding more than $435,000 in culinary scholarships and tuition waivers. "We're bringing back a sense of education as our mission," she says.

In a separate ceremony Saturday night, Los Angeles Times food columnist Russ Parsons ("California Cook") was one of six culinary professionals inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America. Established in 1984, the foundation's Who's Who list boasts 201 members, including former Times staff members Ruth Reichl and Colman Andrews.

"It's the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award," Ungaro says. Candidates are nominated by current Who's Who members for significant contributions to American gastronomy during at least 10 years of experience.

A journalist for 30 years and a member of The Times food staff for the last 20 years, Parsons is the author of two cookbooks -- "How to Read a French Fry" and last year's "How to Pick a Peach." "How to Read a French Fry" was a finalist for two Julia Child cookbook awards. "How to Pick a Peach" was named one of the best 100 books of 2007 by Publishers Weekly and Amazon.

In addition to Parsons, the 2008 Who's Who inductees are Nancy Oakes, chef-owner of Boulevard restaurant in San Francisco; Steve Sullivan, founder-owner of Acme Bread Co. in Berkeley; Dan Barber, chef-owner of Blue Hill restaurant in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.; Anthony Bourdain, author and chef; and Zanne Early Stewart, former executive food editor at Gourmet magazine.

At Sunday's chef and restaurant awards ceremony, California-based honorees included Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, who were named outstanding pastry chefs. Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani, owners of Terra in St. Helena, Calif., were honored for outstanding restaurant service. Craig Stoll of Delfina in San Francisco was named best chef, Pacific region (California and Hawaii).

"Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco" by Sonoma-based Paula Wolfert was inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame. Fritz Maytag, owner of Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco, received a lifetime achievement award.

For a complete winners list, go to

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