Stories / Beard House, Interviews

Go Back to the Future with Beard Award Winners

Maggie Borden

September 15, 2016


The past three decades have seen a lot of change, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the rise of the Cronut—but one thing that has endured is the steady stream of superstar chefs who have graced the Beard House kitchen. To celebrate our 30th anniversary, we fired up the DeLorean and took a trip down memory lane, asking several veteran toques to revisit their dishes of menus past, and tell us how they’d update them for the digital era.

JBF Award Winner Allen Susser
Chef Allen’s, Miami

Dinner: June 27, 1988

Dish: Roast Pompano with Citrus Phyllo and Jicama

“The ingredients that I chose for this recipe represent Miami well. They were a part of our food landscape then and are even more so now. Using local and sustainable fish is still at the top of my agenda. After 30 years I would modify this recipe by using a more forceful spice blend: cumin, coriander, and fresh, locally grown turmeric.”


JBF Award Winner Mary Sue Milliken
Border Grill, Las Vegas and L.A.

Dinner: March 8, 1989

Dish: Stuffed Rigatoni with Parmesan Cream

“I remember so clearly when we [Susan Feniger and I] created this dish. We ordered pasta from an outside vendor, and the delivery came with rigatoni that was three inches long! There wasn’t time to change it, so we made this chicken mousse with tons of fennel seeds, and we stuffed it into the noodles. Turned out it was a huge hit, and it became one of our best-loved dishes. If I were going to make it at home today, I would lighten it up a bit. I would bring a little bit of chicken broth to a boil in a skillet, and then I’d put the rigatoni in and gently poach it. Then I’d pull it out, reduce the stock, add some cream and Parmesan, and then put the pasta back in before serving.”


JBF Award Winner David Waltuck
Institute of Culinary Education, NYC

Dinner: October 29, 1990

Dish: Pears in Red Wine with Red Wine and Pear Sherbets

“Looking over the menu, I would say I must have been going for a very classic, very fall, French theme. I don’t think I’d want to do anything different to update it. At this point, there is something a bit daring in trying to do a great version of a dish that you know is going to be seen as old-fashioned or outdated.”


JBF Award Winner Tom Colicchio
Crafted Hospitality

Dinner: November 5, 1990

Dish: Seared Tuna with White Beans and Lemon Confit

“This was something I worked out for my first dish at Mondrian and quickly became the closest thing to my 'signature' there. It’s more complicated than it sounds—specifically the sauce, which contained juice from mussels, lobster roe, and butter to thicken it, and the bones and skin from a smoked salmon I was also serving at the time. I actually served a variation on this dish earlier this year! But this time we took an entire tuna loin and salt-baked it, which turned out beautifully.”


This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the James Beard Foundation. See how we're celebrating.