May 4, 2013
Catching up with James Beard award winner Hank Shaw

hank shaw.jpg

I just got off the phone with Hank Shaw, who won a James Beard award Friday night in New York for best blog. Shaw is traveling with significant other Holly Heyser, journalist in residence at California State University, Sacramento (and the one responsible for many of the photos on the blog).

I asked Shaw, whose blog is called "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook," about the awards ceremony and what it felt like the moment he heard his name called.

The ceremony was at Gotham Hall, a massive old art deco style building with a large rotunda. There were about 500 in attendance (the awards for chefs and restaurants are Monday) and it was hosted by Ted Allen.

"It was a swanky affair. Everybody was dressed up and the room was buzzing," Shaw said.

I asked him about the meal, prepared by three chefs from San Diego, but Shaw said he was so nervous that his stomach was churning and "things got blurry."

When the ceremony began, Shaw waited nervously at his table. Several of his friends with "wild" backgrounds who forage, fish or hunt were nominated in other categories but did not win. Shaw had psyched himself up to lose, too, in part so he wouldn't be disappointed (this was his third nomination).

Then came time for his category, and if you've been reading food blogs, you know the quality is high, the competition fierce. And when Shaw heard his name?

"I basically stood up and shouted," he said with a laugh.

He walked to the stage and Allen put the gold medal around his neck. Shaw thought back to his days as a track and field athlete, noting he once dreamed of going to the Olympics only to realize he didn't have that level of talent.

"Last night, I got my Olympic medal," he said.

Shaw is now one of three James Beard award winners from Sacramento. Elaine Corn won for her 1994 book "Now You're Cooking: Everything a Beginner Needs to Know to Start Cooking Today." And on Monday, the iconic Sacramento restaurant Frank Fat's will receive a James Beard award in a special lifetime achievement category, "America's Classic."

After the big news, Shaw, Heyser and friends left Gotham Hall and hit the town to celebrate. First stop was for oysters at The John Dory Oyster Bar. Then they went for a night cap at the historic Algonquin Hotel, which is especially famous in literary circles for its "Algonquin Roundtable" - a group of renowned writers and editors that convened daily for the better part of a decade.

Today, Shaw plans to eat and eat some more. He and Heyser will be going to Pok Pok, the Thai restaurant making such a splash of late. Then they'll visit Michelin-rated WD-50, where they are supposed to meet the famous modernist cooking wizard (and owner of WD-50) Wylie Dufresne.

On Sunday, Shaw has been invited to brunch at the Michelin 3-star Restaurant Daniel, owned by renowned French chef Daniel Boulud. Later Sunday, they fly home.
Asked how it feels to finally be a James Beard award winner, Shaw laughed and said, "It doesn't suck."

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

Complete list of James Beard award winners for 2013

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