California Scores in Beards

Thomas Keller, chef-owner of the exquisite little Napa Valley restaurant the French Laundry, was named the national chef of the year Monday night at the annual awards ceremony of the James Beard Foundation in New York.

“I hope this will be a turning point signaling a change in the way people look at the restaurant business,” Keller said. “A restaurant doesn’t have to be a mega-store. It can be an intimate place where the chef is just doing great food.”

California swept three of the top four national restaurant awards. In addition to Keller, Michael Mina of San Francisco’s Aqua was named the rising star chef and San Francisco’s Rose Pistola, run by Reed Herron, was named the best new restaurant. New York’s Union Square Cafe, a perennial favorite, was named the outstanding restaurant.


The Humanitarian of the Year award went to Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters and the Lifetime Achievement award to New York’s Joe Baum, owner of Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room.

In the cookbook awards announced at the same time, Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York” was named the best book of the year, and Elizabeth David’s 1960 cookbook “French Provincial Cooking” was named to the hall of fame.

The foundation also announced this year’s additions to its Who’s Who of Food and Beverage: Cookbook author Flo Braker, culinary historian Barbara Haber, television personality Graham Kerr, winemakers Michael and Timothy Mondavi, restaurateurs Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder (new owners of New York’s the Four Seasons) and restaurant designer Adam Tihany.

In journalism awards announced Friday night, the Los Angeles Times took honors in four of the seven newspaper categories. Times honorees were Food Editor Laurie Ochoa for her pieces on the 25th anniversary of Chez Panisse, David Shaw for a story about wine auctions, S. Irene Virbila for restaurant criticism and Russ Parsons for a story on the search for new nectarine varieties.


Outstanding Chef: Thomas Keller, the French Laundry, Yountville, Calif. Rising Star: Michael Mina, Aqua, San Francisco. Outstanding Restaurant: Union Square Cafe, New York. Best New Restaurant: Rose Pistola, San Francisco. Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional: Zelma Long, Simi Winery. Best California Chef: Hubert Keller, Fleur de Lys, San Francisco.


Book of the Year: “The Book of Jewish Food,” Claudia Roden (Knopf). Cookbook Hall of Fame: “French Provincial Cooking,” Elizabeth David (Michael Joseph, 1960). Baking and Desserts: “Baking With Julia,” Dorie Greenspan (Morrow). Fruits and Vegetables: “Chez Panisse Vegetables,” Alice Waters (Harper Collins). Healthy Focus: “Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites,” Moosewood Collective (Clarkson Potter). Italian: “La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio,” Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene with Michele Evans (Knopf). Single Subject: “The Pasta Bible,” Christian Teubner, Silvio Rizzi, Tan Lee Leng (Penguin Studio). Vegetarian: “1,000 Vegetarian Recipes,” Carol Gelles (Macmillan). Writing on Food: “Olives,” Mort Rosenblum (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux). Foods of the Americas: “An American Place,” Larry Forgione (Morrow). General: “Recipes 1-2-3,” Rozanne Gold (Viking). International: “Patricia Wells at Home in Provence” (Scribner). Reference: “Steven Jenkins Cheese Primer” (Workman). Special Occasions: “Seasons of the Vineyard,” Robert Mondavi, Margrit Biever Mondavi and Carolyn Dille (Simon & Schuster). Wine and Spirits: “A Wine and Food Guide to the Loire,” Jacqueline Friedrich (Henry Holt). Best Food Photography: “Lorenza’s Pasta,” Gus Filgate, photographer (Clarkson Potter).