Last night, I was sitting at a large circular table at Espace in New York City with some rather distinguished company: Robb Walsh, formerly of the Houston Press; Ed Levine, the founder of Serious Eats; Ryan D’Agostino, the articles editor for Esquire; and a trio of writers/editors with our sister paper, the Chicago Reader: Alison True, Cliff Doerksen, and Mike Sula.
Despite all that intelligence at the table, none of us knew how to pronounce the name of the place: “E-space”? “E-spahase”? Or my personal favorite (coined by WaPo‘s food editor Joe Yonan): “E-spa-che,” as if the place sold both gazpacho and ceviche.
Regardless, we were all there to find out the 2010 winners of the James Beard Foundation Media and Book Awards. Oh, and to nosh on a multi-course meal that was better than any of us had a right to expect, given the large catering demands placed on the kitchen. (Of course, when the courses are created by Gerald Hirigoyen, John Besh, Suzanne Goin, and Karen DeMasco, you’re not exactly dealing with U.S. Foodservice, are you?)
Food aside, one of the biggest upsets of the evening — perhaps second only to Colman Andrews and Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl losing out to Edible Brooklyn‘s Rachel Wharton for food-related column — was the Kojo Nnamdi Show beating The Splendid Table in the audio Webcast or radio show category. Given that the former show is local (and largely devoted to politics when not chewing over food), and the latter national, I thought Kojo didn’t stand a chance. Shows you how much I know.
I was very pleased for Kojo, even more so when producer Brendan Sweeney, in accepting the award for the no-show Nnamdi, noted that the Beard medal says as much about D.C.’s food scene as it does about the Kojo Nnamdi Show. Or something along those lines. You have to remember, I was about three glasses of wine in at this point.
The Beard Foundation also gave the Washington Post more love. For the second year in row, the Post‘s food section, under editor Yonan, won a Beard award, beating out both the Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle‘s food sections for the honor. In accepting the medal, Yonan noted the difficulties of continuing to put out quality food sections in the time of shrinking budgets and newspaper readerships. He said that for every subscriber lost, the Post needs to pick up another 100 online readers. Or something like that. Remember the wine-drinking factor here.
Yonan then finished his remarks on an ironic note. He said he was reading a story online that very day that ended with a short editor’s note at the bottom. It said that this is a more complete version of the story that appeared in print. I suspect the bloggers in the room didn’t get the point.
The other D.C. winner was Chefs A’ Field, the PBS series that is now in its fourth season. The show is produced by Warner Hanson Television, which was founded in Washington D.C. by Heidi Hanson and Chris Warner in 2000 and has already racked up multiple Beard awards in its brief existence. Chefs A’ Field bested some heavy hitters, including The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network and PBS’s Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth. As in Ruth Reichl.
The hard-luck loser for the evening — at least in my eyes — was David Guas, whose excellent DamGoodSweet lost out to James Peterson‘s Baking in the dessert and baking cookbook category. At least yours truly had good company for those who came home empty-handed. I lost to Jared Jacang Maher‘s excellent “A Hunger to Help” in the newspaper feature writing category about restaurants and/or chefs.
Here’s the full list of winners from last night’s cookbook and media awards. Tonight, it’s the chefs’ turn. The Beard Awards for restaurants and chefs will be passed out at the Lincoln Center.
Have some opinions about the Beard Awards or any other subject? Pass them along.