The James Beard Awards — often dubbed the Oscars of the restaurant world — are upon us, starting with the Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards in New York tomorrow night and followed by the Restaurant and Chef Awards in Chicago on May 2. OpenTable is excited to partner with the team at Lucky Peach on Winners Are Losers, their annual after-party for the journalism awards. (Spoiler alert: there will be bowling.)
Here, Lucky Peach editors Chris Ying and Peter Meehan share their insights on the nominees, ceremony, and more, from the chef they’re rooting for to the best writers who didn’t earn a nod.
What are the top trends you’re seeing among this year’s restaurant and chef nominees?
Peter Meehan: The main trend I notice is that I am old and—because I spend a lot of time with the under-six set—parochial and unaware of lots of cool-sounding places. The trend is: I need to get out more, and to cities I haven’t been in in years.
Chris Ying: I think it’s great that the day-to-day/executive chefs of big-name restaurants are being nominated for Rising Star. I suppose that was probably a stated decision and not a trend, but still nice to see. Otherwise, seems like the trend of “American Cooking” having a pretty narrow definition (when it comes to books) continues. I don’t know what other trends I’ve noticed among the nominees. Lots of caviar on menus these days, I think.
Anyone you’re especially excited to see on the list? Why?
Peter: Lots of people. The nomination of ours that I’m most excited about is the one for Joanna Avillez’ Smells the Same. I found her story really evocative, affecting, and beautifully told, but it’s not an obvious narrative for a food media crowd to latch on to. So I’m stoked to see it get the nod.
Chris: I’m excited that Kevin Pang’s movie was nominated—I know how much he put into that. I’m of course very excited for our team and thrilled to see acknowledgement for our new endeavors (the website, the Three Dishes column in the magazine). I’m personally pretty happy to have pulled Todd Kliman’s pork piece out of someone else’s reject pile and helped turn it into a nominated piece (I say this knowing full well that stories we rejected are also nominated this year; oops).
Chef-wise, Corey Lee and Jeremy Fox—so nice to see Jeremy Fox back on top. And Peter Chang, WTF—amazing! And of course I’m very proud of Handsome Rudy (Matt Rudofker) and my very near and dear friend/hero, Angela Dimayuga.