In the James Beard Awards--the Oscars of the professional culinary world--Northern California and San Francisco in particular have made a strong showing among the 2012 finalists, across many categories. The roster of nominees for best chef, best restaurant, best wine program, rising star chef and other honors was just announced on March 19--and both local veterans such as Gary Danko, Boulevard and Emily Luchetti and local youngsters like Danny Bowien and Aziza's Melissa Chou made the list. The James Beard Foundation gives out the medals on May 4 and May 7, 2012, in New York City. And the local nominees are…
For Outstanding Restaurant (“a national standard bearer” that has operated for 10 or more consecutive years): Boulevard in San Francisco.
Outstanding Chef (“a working chef” whose career has set national industry standards and who’s inspired other food professionals): Gary Danko, of the San Francisco restaurant of the same name.
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Melissa Chou of Aziza in San Francisco
Rising Star Chef of the Year (age 30 or below): Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food; and Thomas McNaughton of Flour + Water, both in San Francisco. They and three other rising star nominees were culled from 31 semi-finalists.
Outstanding Service: Cyrus in Healdsburg; and Michael Mina in San Francisco.
Best New Restaurant (opened in 2011): AQ in San Francisco
Inductee to the 2012 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America: Emily Luchetti, pastry chef of Farallon and Waterbar, both San Francisco restaurants. Other food authorities named to the hall of fame this year include Grant Achatz, the Chicago chef, and Mark Bittman, the New York Times journalist.
Best Chef, Pacific Region (CA and HI): Michael Chiarello of Bottega in Yountville, CA; Chris Cosentino at Incanto in San Francisco; Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood (in St. Helena, CA); and Daniel Patterson at Coi in San Francisco).
Northern California has already swept the field. The only finalist who’s not a local boy is Matt Molina at Osteria Mozza in LA. The five finalists were selected from 20 semi-finalists.
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional (“who has had a significant impact on the wine and spirits industry nationwide”): Merry Edwards of Merry Edwards Winery, Sebastopol.
Outstanding Wine Program (a restaurant with a well-presented wine list and knowledgeable staff that educates customers about wine): A16 in San Francisco.
Outstanding Bar Program (a restaurant with a well-presented drink list, knowledgeable staff and efforts to educate customers about cocktails, spirits, and/or beers): Bar Agricole in San Francisco.
Cookbook Awards (for cookbooks published in English in 2011): Several of the nominees in the numerous categories are from local publishers, Chronicle Books in San Francisco or Ten Speed Press in Berkeley.