by Mike Sula
If you were keeping score, by now you've probably heard that the majority of Chicago's 17 James Beard award nominees returned home without medals (some probably heard that before the nominees themselves).
Our champs: Grant Achatz (and by extension Nick Kokonas, Mike Nagrant, and Lara Kastner) for the Alinea Book, and the NYC firm that designed the Publican (actually that one should be pretty sweet for Paul Kahan et al, who've endured a certain degree of whinging here at home about the space).
Not a day went by and the hand-wringing began--oh dear, I suppose it's back to condescending national media features on deep dish and wienies again. Like this one just yesterday. Or these. Just roll over and die, I guess.
I'm with Helen on this one--who cares? To use these awards or any national coverage (or lack thereof) as a barometer for Chicago's culinary worth is itself a symptom of an inferiority complex. And we've been over that for a long time.
So again, congrats again to nominees Kahan, Grieveson, Sherman, Sampanthavivat, Melman, Madia, Duncan, L2O, Spiaggia, Segal, Dolinksy, Eng, and Vettel. That's a lot to be proud of, and there's many more that didn't get the nod that deserve it.
For me, this was a great opportunity to brush shoulders with some heroes from here and afar. On the night of the media awards in particular it was a thrill to be seated at the same table as Corby Kummer from the Atlantic (he won), Tom Sietsema from the Washington Post, and Rebekah Denn, who scored a bittersweet win for a great story on Mangalitsa hogs for the now much diminished Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I consulted that piece a few times while working on the Whole Hog Project, which incidentally lost to some hot-shot kid named Ruth Reichl. Watch out for that one.