2011 James Beard Foundation Awards

Andrew Zimmern bites someone's head on the red carpet, dressed-up pigs, and other notes from Lincoln Center

Andrew Zimmern bit someone's head on the red carpet (it was actually green... the carpet, not the head), Marcus Samuelsson wore white Valentino and shoes he'd designed himself (left), chefs from disparate culinary worlds like Anne Burrell and Thomas Keller could be seen side by side, there were pigs dressed to the nines doing the red (er, green) carpet strut, and the foie gras posters that had protested the Books, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards on Friday at Espace would have actually had some foie gras to be upset about (on what was, amusingly enough, National Foie Gras Day).

Thus began the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards at New York City's Lincoln Center on Monday evening, a miracle for having gone off so seamlessly when you consider the partying at Sunday Night's Chefs' Night Out Party at Chelsea Market.

The James Beard Foundation's coverage with a full list of winners can be found on their site. Some notes, observations, and things gleaned from watching, talking to, and observing chefs, writers, and food celebrities on the green carpet, in the press room, at the gala, and at some of the after-parties before Tuesday's hangover observations...

• Green carpet walk starts at 5 p.m. with Drew Nieporent first on line. There's a foot of space for each press member along the green carpet, which soon sees Ming Tsai, Bobby Flay, and Farmer Lee Jones.

A pretty svelte looking Andrew Zimmern jokingly tries to bite a fellow green carpet walker's head, then notes that he "often argues in meetings that they should turn the cameras around and film. The sh*t that happens on the bus beats what shows up on the show by about 17 to 1. But isn't that always the case?" When asked where the best after-party of the night will be Andrew Zimmern noted, "Geez, I don't know. I usually wait until the last moment to find out. I grew up in New York City, it'll be just like it was when I was a kid, standing on the street corner with a bunch of my friends, looking at each other and asking, whose parents are out of town tonight?"

Asked who he was rooting for, Ming Tsai noted fellow Next Iron Chef contestant, Bryan Caswell. Where the best after-party would be: "Don't know. Drew just handed me a piece of paper, so let's check that. Nope. It's a flyer for an HBO movie. Only Drew would be handing this out on the red carpet."

Most Notable Kicks on the Red Carpet: Marcus Samuelsson sported self-designed, slip-resistant "front of house, back of house" work gear (which you can buy online from Mozo), though Duff Goldman's green Addidas were strong. It should be noted, to little surprise, Marcus was the overall winner fashionwise with his white Valentino suit. Asked what was next for Harlem, Marcus noted his "Nook" at Red Rooster had just opened. You can get fresh biscuits and other goodies to-go there.

• "Has anyone gotten shocked?" asked former Ace of Cakes star, Duff Goldman about shaking hands on the red carpet. "I keep getting shocked!"

• Michael White on Al Molo, his new restaurant in Hong Kong, "There are things to get around, like trying to find semolina." As to his pick for must-hit restaurant in Hong Kong, it's the dim sum at Lung King Heen in the Four Seasons. Why? "The casing is translucent, so thin. It's just there so that you can pick up what's inside it."

• General consensus on the carpet is that the dark horse place to be for the afterparty is The Jane for the Momofuku/Torrisi afterparty. Most must be assuming Torrisi is going to win award for Best New Restaurant (they didn't.)

• Anne Burrell on repeatedly beating co-host Robert Irvine, "I keep knocking him down. He keeps coming back for more. And I don't plan on losing to him anytime soon." Look forward to many new television appearances by Burrell including Next Iron Chef, Worst Cooks in America, and more.

• Chefs Thomas Keller of Per Se and French Laundry, and Grant Achatz of Alinea spotted on red carpet together. Pretty cool sight for anyone into the food world who has read Achatz's Life, On the Line, which recounts his experience at French Laundry and his rise to prominence.

• Here's the scene inside the press room: Nourishment means spicy meatballs from the guys at The Meatball Shop. Best bite unquestionably is the spicy meatball. What might not you know about the new Williamsburg outpost? "Williamsburg will have a full bar." Also, there's no graffiti up yet on the boarding of the space, taggers. Used to be "some Polish guy's apartment." Team Serious Eats stays in a triumvirate by the chefs' entrance, Eater takes the wall behind them, and outlets become an urgent hot commodity.

• Being in the press room you see strange things like Anne Burrell drinking Champagne on ice; bump into people carrying too many drinks and they spill them; hear you're not supposed to take photos of chefs at the afterparties dancing on the bars (don't believe it); and meet some winners when possible. But believe it or not, you have to struggle to hear the banter and the acceptance speeches. Tune in to the hangover observations tomorrow. By far the coolest chefs this reporter hung out with in the press room were John Currence, wine expert Anthony Giglio (hilarious), and Cochon's Stephen Stryjewski. Very real, good guys. Look out for upcoming interviews.

• Overheard in the press room, "The gala upstairs is incredible. Honestly, the food is better up there than by many of the chefs that just won the awards." That may be hyperbole, but seriously, walking around and seeing the food on the offer, you start to hope that just like during any one major political event they leave one person home, that some great American chef isn't here. God forbid the whole place goes up in smoke there would be no one left. Three of the best bites: caviar and jamón, walu by Revel in Seattle, and tripe by Jamie Bissonnette in Boston.

• After the awards one of the best lines overheard on the way to the Boulud Sud afterparty was from a photographer who said, "I'm done taking pictures. Time to drink." He was then repeatedly spotted taking photos. A ripe source for quotes, he also noted: "They will have everything at The Jane. There will be polar bears." That said, the afterparty at Boulud Sud saw some big stars: Dan Barber in the Epicerie, Boulud behind the bar, Colicchio at the bar, Eddie Huang "fresh off the treadmill," Ozersky with Restaurant Girl, the Serious Eats team sticking together, Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold, and Canora and Ming hanging out for a bit up front.

• No doubt, The Daily Meal will be at all afterparties next year, but hitting all six or seven that were happening tonight was beyond this reporter's one-night, solo abilities. One note, Boulud Sud was a strong start with oysters and fantastic service. Big names. The Jane saw Bobby Flay bringing other people drinks, sausage and peppers in dry bread, and what seemed like a pretty big cluster... well, it was just Mother's Day, and Mom says you're not supposed to talk like that.

 

The Daily Byte is a regular column dedicated to covering interesting food news and trends across the country. Click here for previous columns.

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