It’s appalling that Tim McKee and the La Belle Vie crew were passed up for the James Beard Award earlier this week. I worried that all the Minneapolis nominees, including Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery and Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma and Brasa, would dilute the Minnesota vote and, alas, it looks like I was right. Check out the results here:
I have to admit that the restaurant voting can go astray. The judges for all the print and media awards are handed copies of whatever they’re reviewing—you should see the boxes of hardcovers I’ve had to plow through in the years when I’ve been a book award judge. But the restaurant reviewers just have to check a little box vowing that they’ve been to all the restaurants they’re voting for. I’m guessing that when you feel like you’ve got a dog in the fight, the temptation to vote in categories that you really shouldn’t is just too great. My sense is that the Milwaukee win represents a whole lot of people from Chicago messing with something they shouldn’t be messing with.
That said, I’d like to tip my hat to a few hometown wins. Hooray for Lynn Rosetto Kasper, Sally Swift, and Jennifer Russell at The Splendid Table! They won for best radio show, and no one deserves it more. They’re tireless, endlessly creative, and fascinating women. I’m thrilled for them.
Cheers too to John Ragan, a St. Thomas alum and former St. Paul resident who won the Outstanding Wine Service Award for his work as sommelier at Eleven Madison Park in New York. Ragan is one of the nicest, most passionate, most insightful, most egalitarian people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing in the world of wine, and I couldn’t be happier for him.
And how about Brett Anderson? He won the award for best newspaper writing for his work at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. And while I admire him for his profoundly articulate work at that paper, Minnesotans will always claim Brett as one of our own because he grew up here, and started his career at the dear departed Twin Cities Reader. Go Brett!
Finally, I also sort of feel that Terry Thiese, the Austrian and German wine importer, is a hometown win—he won for outstanding wine and spirits professional—because he’s here so often for Surdyk’s. Hooray for Terry! That man has one of the world’s most finely tuned aesthetic senses—and is probably the only person on earth I’d care to answer the question: What part of beauty is justice? If you’ve ever read one of Thiese’s wine catalogs you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, why not take a few weeks’ vacation and do so?
You know what? I actually feel better now after going over some of these wins. Better luck next year to all Minnesota chefs, but ’til then: Hey, Milwaukee, next year it’s a grudge match.