Before spring officially kicks in the annual food & drink rite of passage begins; a close read of the names of anointed hospitality industry leaders who are fortunate and skilled and lauded and connected enough to have their names land on the semi-finalists’ list for this year’s James Beard Awards. And then the ensuing chatter about whether those nominees are deserving and who was “robbed.”
They say, it’s an honor just to be nominated, and that’s true. In our book, everyone who makes a difference in the lives of restaurant, bar and hotel guests every day is a winner, but for now, let’s just see who the James Beard Foundation (www.jamesbeard.org) might be handing an award to on May 5th where the theme for the 2014 Awards is “Sounds of the City.”
This year’s theme explores the enduring relationship between music and food, celebrating the many ways in which the culinary community is inspired by music and the artists who create it. Music has continually played an important role in the culinary world, from inspiring chefs in the kitchen to setting the tone in a dining room and everything in between. A surprising number of chefs have crossed over from the world of music to food and even more continue to express themselves as musicians in their downtime. From Nashville to New Orleans, Detroit to Seattle, this year’s gala reception will feature chefs from some of America’s beloved musical cities creating dishes inspired by their favorite sounds, whether it’s a local musical act, special song, or impactful musician.
There’s no doubt that being nominated for a James Beard Award has an impact on careers. The James Beard Foundation holds an online open call for entries beginning in mid-October of each year. According to sources at the Foundation this year, over 38,000 entries were received, a list which the Restaurant and Chef Committee goes through to determine eligibility and regional representation. Based on the results and eligibility requirements for each award, the committee then produces a nominating ballot that lists the semifinalists in each of the 20 Restaurant and Chef awards categories, some of which include Outstanding Chef (Presented by All-Clad Metalcrafters), Outstanding Restaurant, Best Chef in ten different U.S. regions, Rising Star Chef of the Year, Outstanding Service, Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional, Outstanding Bar Program, and Best New Restaurant.
The list of semifinalist nominees is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country. This panel, which comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners, votes on specific award categories to determine Continue Reading…