The Oscars/Grammys/Clios/ESPYs of the food world will be held this evening at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. The finalists for the 2014 James Beard Awards were announced back in March, so the nominees have had about two months to practice their speeches/losing faces. For the first time in over a decade, New York was shut out of the Rising Star Chef of the Year category, but the city is well represented in the rest of the big national categories.
Here, now, is a look at all of the categories where New York chefs and restaurateurs are nominated, with predictions on who will win:
[Mark Ladner by Krieger]
Best Chef NYC:
April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig)
Dan Kluger (ABC Kitchen)
Mark Ladner (Del Posto)
Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto)
Michael White (Marea)
It's exciting to see Kluger nominated in this category for the very first time, and it's nice that Waxman is getting some JBFA love again — he was inducted into the Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage exactly 30 years ago. But really, Best Chef NYC is a competition between Mark Ladner, April Bloomfield, and Michael White. All three of them have been nominated for this award multiple times in the past, and none of them have won. White's seafood palace Marea took home the gold for Best New Restaurant in 2010, and Del Posto won the awards for Outstanding Service and Outstanding Pastry Chef last year, but somehow, the Foundation has never given an award to April Bloomfield or any of her restaurants. Like Barbuto, The Spotted Pig is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and April also expanded her group across the country over the last year while running four amazing kitchens in New York City. This is her year to win.
Eater's Prediction: April Bloomfield
[Christina Tosi by Paul Crispin Quitoriano]
Outstanding Pastry Chef:
Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery
Dana Cree, Blackbird (Chicago)
Belinda Leong, b. patisserie (San Francisco)
Dahlia Narvaez, Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)
Christina Tosi, Momofuku NYC
Fun fact: Friday is the Cronut's first birthday. Since May 9, 2013, Dominique Ansel has become the world's most famous pastry chef, and he's kept making delicious things that are not Cronuts, too. Ansel was actually nominated in this same category last year, when we were all living in a pre-Cronut society. Ms. Tosi won Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2012, and Dahlia Narvaez has been nominated several times in the past. Cree and Leong have never been nominated before. It's perhaps worth noting that some people are sick of the Cronut hype and others are jealous of Ansel's success. But still, it's wise to put your money on the Cronut King this year.
Eater's Prediction: Dominique Ansel
[Blue Hill by Krieger]
Quince (San Francisco)
The Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena, CA)
Topolobampo has been nominated for this award four straight years in a row, and Vetri has also been a finalist in this category many times over the last decade. Quince and Blue Hill are both esteemed fine dining restaurants that consistently get high marks from the critics. But The Restaurant at Meadowood is the one to beat in this category. Christopher Kostow's restaurant attracts diners from around the world, and it didn't get three Michelin stars for food alone.
Eater's Prediction: The Restaurant at Meadowood
[ABC Kitchen's Dan Kluger with Phil Suarez and Jean-Georges Vongerichten in 2011 by Krieger]
Phil Suarez (ABC Kitchen, Jean Georges, etc.)
Barbara Lynch (Boston's Barbara Lynch Gruppo)
Donnie Madia (Chicago's One Off Hospitality Group)
Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill and Cindy's Back Street Kitchen in Napa Valley)
Caroline Styne (Lucques and A.O.C. in Los Angeles)
It's a race between Barbara Lynch, who was just the subject of a Times Magazine profile that generated a lot of buzz, and Phil Suarez, whose flagship restaurant just got four stars from the Times. Suarez was nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur in 2012, 2001, and 2008, and his restaurants have won heaps of Beard Awards, but he's never taken home the medal for this category. Lynch received a Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast in 2009, and she was one of the Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage last year, but she's never been nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur.
Eater's Prediction: Barbara Lynch
[wd~50 by Krieger]
Highlands Bar and Grill (Birmingham)
The Slanted Door (San Francisco)
It's tough to say how this one will play out. Hearth consistently delivers excellent food and a great overall experience, but it's not a destination like wd~50 or Spiaggia. The Slanted Door is a classic San Francisco establishment, but some people think it's overrated. Highlands Bar and Grill is the underdog, although it's worth noting that the restaurant has been nominated in this category every year since 2010.
The recent Gelinaz event might have juiced wd~50's chances of wining this time, but it looks like Spiaggia might be the frontrunner here. Tony Montuano's Chicago restaurant has been nominated in this category many times before, and it's undergoing a design refresh for its 30th anniversary.
Eater's Prediction: Spiaggia
[Carbone by Krieger]
Best New Restaurant:
Coqueta (San Francisco)
Pêche Seafood Grill (New Orleans)
Carbone has the highest national profile of any of the restaurants on this list, but Betony and Estela certainly have their fans here in New York. The thing to keep in mind is that the New York votes are getting split three ways. Coqueta is a critical darling and a very hot restaurant from a California cuisine heavy hitter. There's a strong chance that it will get a ton of votes from the west coast, and it may indeed take the gold.
Eater's Prediction: Coqueta
[Michael Anthony by Daniel Krieger]
Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern)
Sean Brock (McCrady's in Charleston)
Suzanne Goin (Lucques in LA)
David Kinch (Manresa in Los Gatos, CA)
Nancy Silverton (Pizzeria Mozza in LA)
Marc Vetri (Vetri in Philadelphia)
These are five chefs that everyone in the industry admires, and all of them have won James Beard Awards before. Based on restaurant buzz alone, this award would go to either Sean Brock or David Kinch, but voters might also want to give it to Vetri, the underdog. Tough call here, but the edge goes to Kinch, whose star continues to rise.
Eater's Prediction: David Kinch
[Garrett Oliver by Krieger]
Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional:
Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery)
Ron Cooper (Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal)
Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery)
Harlen Wheatley (Buffalo Trace Distillery)
David Wondrich (Brooklyn-based spirits educator)
Outstanding Wine Program:
A16 (San Francisco)
The Barn at Blackberry Farm (Walland, TN)
The Little Nell (Aspen)
Outstanding Bar Program
The Bar at the NoMad Hotel
Bar Agricole (San Francisco)
Clyde Common (Portland)
The Violet Hour (Chicago)
Bar Boulud's odds are looking good this year. If Madrigale and Co. win, Daniel Boulud might even do one of his patented Champagne sprays at the after party. In terms of Outstanding Bar Program, The Nomad has attracted the kind of national attention that might help it win in this field. And in the Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional category, hopefully Brooklyn Brewery's Garret Oliver will walk home with some gold this year — he's the Susan Lucci of craft beer. So we might be looking at a New York sweep on the beverage side of things.
Eater National will be liveblogging the ceremony tonight, and the Beard Foundation will be streaming the event live on its website starting at 6 p.m.
· All Coverage of James Beard Awards 2014 [~ENY~]