It feels like a food-world mafia wedding out here under the portico. A bespectacled Alain Ducasse sneaks by the press table undetected. Emeril is chatting and taking photos with Traci Des Jardins. Gregarious Drew Nieporent stops by in a pale pink bow tie. So what about women in food? I ask. "Are you kidding me?" says Drew. "Leslie Revson, Deborah Ponzack, Traci Des Jardins, Patricia Williams, Claudia Fleming (way before Gramercy). It has nothing to do with gender--it has to do with talent and giving people opportunity. I think I've lead in that category." And the pink tie? "This is the only tie I've got that fits--nothing to do with gender there either."
The doors are open, the rain is pouring. Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Traci DesJardins, Drew Nieporent, all are squeezing into the reception. Dishes still empty and stations awaiting...
Some might be surprised that this year's JBF Awards recognizes women in food considering women have long been associated with the kitchen. Julia Child is one of the most recognizable names in food, but it's important to keep in mind that her audience was post-war housewives eager to make their husbands happy with coq au vin and mousse au chocolat. Before 24/7 food television, celebrity chefs, and best-selling kitchen-tell-alls, men ruled the kitchen because cooking was considered a blue-collar profession for those with few other options—an unsuitable profession for a "lady." Hopefully, this year's awards ceremony represents a change in public opinion and in practice.
When asked what she thought about the fact that so many fewer females become chefs, Maria Hines from Tilth said, "I definitely hope this changes things. I think it's great that JBF hosts this event and gives us a chance to be in the spotlight." Jennifer Coco from Flat Iron Cafe sees the disparity in numbers between male and female chefs as inspiration. "I hope it doesn't change because people are always so surprised to see me! It gives me energy and motivates me!" Suzanne Tracht from Jar thinks the ratio of male to
The big plaza in front of Avery Fisher Hall will always say Moonstruck to me, and I bet the nominees feel like the post-makeover Cher awaiting Nicholas Cage. It's bright and rainy out and there's a feeling of drizzled anticipation in this room. I'll try not to draw movie comparisons all night but can make no promises.
Meredith Arthur, CHOW
This year's James Beard Awards couldn't be more different than the last. Last year's heat wave required attire of linen and flip flops while this evening's rain requires something a bit more solid and water resistant for the red carpet. Fingers-crossed that the monsoon abaits a bit. I attended '08 solo, while tonight I have Monsieur Snack as The Escort. Fingers-crossed on that category as well. Which leaves me a bit torn between schmoozing in the press room and smooching in the theatre. Perhaps I can have my gâteau and eat it too.
Backstage at Avery Fisher Hall the Steinway pianos have been moved into hallways to make room for hot boxes and other catering equipment as the 28 female chefs take their positions on the promenade for the 19th annual JBF Awards gala. The Women in Food theme is evident in the bright pink table linens and the explosive bouquets of spring flowers. Between the chef stations, thirteen female mixologists from across the country are setting up their mixers and shakers. The press room is halfway set—with step and repeat in place. What's this? A Hendrick's Gin bar in the press room? Should make for interesting interviews. Countdown is 26 minutes to red carpet (tented, sadly, due to rain).
For all the intricate planning and amazing coordination that goes into the lavish and beautiful JBF Awards ceremonies, dinners, and receptions, the casual, crowded, invitation-only Chefs Night Out may very well be the most fun event of the weekend. Everyone is there—chefs, purveyors, nominees, journalists, celebrities, friends, family, colleagues, food-world legends, you name it. There's a flirtatious, chatty vibe, and the atmosphere is punctuated with surprise and delight as friends run into friends they haven't seen since last year's festivities. Tonight's venue, the modern Indian sensation At Vermilion, was a perfect setting, especially given the overall theme of the 2009 festivities: Women in Food.
Once through the blockade of clipboard-clasping door people, senses were seduced by the heady scent of Indian spices from chef/owner Rohini Dey's contemporary cooking and the pounding beat of Bollywood-inflected music spun by DJ Rekha. Airy and bright, the flower-strewn space was near capacity—a total of 979 RSVPs had been received, and droves of people showed up who weren't on the list. Salman Rushdie, one of the investors in the restaurant, vied with Thomas Keller for the
It's time to decide what you are going to wear tomorrow night for the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala at Avery Fisher Hall. Better make sure your shoes match your gown and your tux is pressed. You'll see co-hosts Stanley Tucci before the world sees him play Paul Child (Julia's hubby), NOLA celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and Iron Chef Cat Cora. We're expecting sightings of Martha Stewart, Lorraine Bracco, Tom Colicchio, Jacques Pépin, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, David Chang (look for his "party bus"), and more. Check back here for live awards coverage from a team of guest bloggers as we celebrate at the Media Awards, Chefs Night Out, and at all the great restaurants around town. There's no other weekend quite like it.