May 8, 2007
The Culinary Oscars

New York still is the nation's culinary capital, but other cities are shouldering their way into the limelight, to judge by the James Beard Foundation awards for outstanding achievement in the food and beverage trade, handed out last night in New York.

Chicago, for one, home to both Frontera Grill, named the outstanding restaurant of the year, and Tru, honored for outstanding service.

Other high dining awards went to Michel Richard of the restaurant Michel Richard Citronelle in Washington, D.C., for outstanding chef (his restaurant also was honored for best wine service in the country); L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon of New York as best new restaurant; David Chang of Momofuko Noodle Bar in New York as rising star chef of the year; and Michael Laskonis of Le Bernardin in New York as outstanding pastry chef.

West Coast winners were Thomas Keller of The French Laundry at Yountville in Napa Valley as outstanding restaurateur, and winemaker Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino as outstanding wine and spirits professional.

The cookbook of the year is "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook" by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, while Mollie Katzen's "Moosewood Cookbook," published in 1977, was inducted into the foundation's Cookbook Hall of Fame.

The foundation also divides the nation into 10 regions and selects an outstanding chef for each. Winner in the Pacific region, which includes California, is Traci Des Jardins of the San Francisco restaurant Jardiniere.

Among the media awards, the San Francisco Chronicle was honored for publishing the best newspaper food section in the country the past year.

Full disclosure: I was a judge who helped elect this year's restaurant and beverage winners, but didn't vote on the cookbook and media categories.

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