James Beard Awards: Spot on, or off the mark?


Of the annual awards in 59 categories to be presented May 6 when the James Beard Foundation announces winners at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall, L.A. chefs received only four nominations.

Four out of 59, and two of them are included in the same nomination. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, who co-own Animal and Son of a Gun, are nominated for Best Chef West. And Suzanne Goin of Lucques and Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria Mozza are competing for Outstanding Chef. Which prompts the question that comes up every year among L.A. fooderati: Are Southern California chefs overlooked?

The long list of first-round nominations always include plenty of L.A. nods, but by the time the short list is announced, only a few names (and often the same ones as the year before) show up.


Actual winners? Well, nobody from L.A. won in any category in 2011, and last year only Matt Molina of Pizzeria Mozza won, for Best Chef Pacific, and Wolfgang Puck received a lifetime achievement award.

And the last time a Southern California restaurant has won in a major category? It was 2004 when Valentino won for Outstanding Wine Service. In 2002, Spago’s Sherry Yard was named best pastry chef. The last time L.A. won for Outstanding Restaurant was a dozen years ago -- in 2001 it went to Campanile, which isn’t even around anymore, sadly.

And why hasn’t Michael Cimarusti of Providence been given the Best Chef Pacific award? His name has been on the long or short list only a gazillion times -- OK, at least three or four. And Suzanne Goin has been nominated several times for Outstanding Chef (she won Best Chef California in 2006).

Meanwhile, Southern California has never won for Rising Star Chef or Best New Restaurant since those award categories were created in 1991 and 1995, respectively. Maybe this year, the Rising Star Chef award will go to Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market, the great Thai hope.

Who do you think should have made the short list or should win a James Beard Award?


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