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May 10, 2010

I know, I know........

I've been MIA.

I'm still in the work-hell homestretch and very close to getting back to a normal pace of life. But can I talk about the James Beard Awards for just a minute?

What a remarkable two days in New York.  Wow.  Let me take this opportunity to thank the  James Beard Foundation for inviting me to live-blog the event.  The team I worked with at the Foundation were true professionals, and a pleasure to work with.  It was a remarkable night, and one I'll remember forever.  I know that sounds totally cornball, but stay with me for a sec....

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It KILLED me not to peek at those before the ceremony began.  Damn my moral upbringing!!

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This man made my 40th birthday incredibly special. [Get your minds out of the gutter, you sickos. He made me an incredible 25+-course dinner at Per Se, and for that I will forever be grateful]

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David Kinch of Manresa (Best Chef, Pacific), who was just lovely and whose restaurant I can't wait to enjoy  (and who was there with his partner, Pim, who I feel like I've known forever)...


If you haven't read the James Beard Awards blog, check it out.  I'm still kind of blown away that I was even there, let alone able encouraged to talk to and spend time with some of my heroes. 

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You guys? Jean-Georges is really, REALLY hot in person.  Like hotter than Mayor Bloomberg.  Yes.  THAT HOT.   I KNOW.

In addition to hanging with two of my favorite chefs in the whole world, I also had a hilarious time backstage in the press room with that Ruhlman chap, a ton of media folks, as well as a few of my fellow bloggers -- particularly, the team from Shut Up Foodies and Alyssa Shelasky from Apron Anxiety.  

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Alyssa and me backstage in the staff room, nursing our feet after being in heels for SEVEN HOURS.

On a side note, it was fun to learn about who in the food media and chef world really reads this blog: I can't tell you how many times I was asked how my butt/back were. Totally sweet, and totally noted.  And, totally humbled.

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Alyssa, Jose Andres, me -- DC, represent!

 
It was an incredible night.  Some of my favorites won; others didn't.  But even bigger than who presented, or who won or lost, was this magnificent electricity in my veins, down to my capillaries.  I don't know how else to describe it, other than this other-worldly feeling of a humming... or a tingly buzzing in my system all night and into the next morning. 

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I keep forgetting about how TALL that Achatz chap is.  And, as I'm writing this caption, I'm noticing the odd fairy-like creature on Grant's shoulder.  What the heck?

Look, you guys know I do PR and media and events for a living.  So usually, I'm really jaded about most things.  I've worked for Presidents.  I've written for celebrities.  I've been on TV. I hosted my own radio show.  I've done media training for and consulted with people you read about in the news every day.  I've seen and done a lot here in this city of mine in the almost-25 years I've lived here.  But there was something really special about being in New York for the James Beard Awards this year.  Was it that I knew a lot of people there?  Maybe.  Was it that I had incredible access to some incredibly amazing and creative people?  Probably.

But there's something else I haven't yet -- almost a week later -- been able to put my finger on.  So let me just write for a few seconds to see if I can get to the core of it.

I really loved the camaraderie and seeing men hug each other.

Does that sound weird?  It's not meant to.

Here's what I mean: I work in politics and entertainment.  To be honest, there's not a lot of honest, heartfelt, supportive stuff going on among men in those fields.  There's a lot of glad-handing, finger guns, and fakey-fake-fakeness.  Phony smiles and forced handshakes.  Frat-boy hug-slaps.  Know what I mean?

But what I LOVED about being at the James Beard Awards was seeing any one of the winning chefs come off the stage, down the elevator to the photo-op area, then to the press room where he was greeted by his peers and colleagues with what felt (to me) like genuine, sincere joy and praise.

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Coliccho.  A good egg.  And, he smelled nice.

Were there some snarky comments and sidelong glances?  Well, duh.  Of course there were.  It's a competition.  That's to be expected.  But overwhelmingly there were hugs, hurrahs, high-fives, hell-yeahs, and so much testosterone.... I loved every second of it.

And I know I'm talking A LOT about the men who won awards.  That's not to take away from the women who were nominated and who won (because there were a few).  I'm focusing on the men because I work around many, many men in my everyday life, and it was a true pleasure to see men, unplugged.

Maybe that's what it was.

It was a sense of men not being afraid to shed a too-cool-for-school front, and instead really be happy for one another. 

IMG_0113 Thomas Keller and "Rising Star" Tim Hollingsworth, cheers-ing.  I adore Tim.  He's really great, down-to-earth, and incredibly smart and focused.  Oh, and a damn good chef.

The word camaraderie is from the French word comrade and means "a spirit of friendly good-fellowship," and that's exactly what this night was about.  Friendly good-fellowship.  I loved every minute of it.

So, that was Monday night.

Oh wait.  There was an after-party Monday night, well into Tuesday morning, at Eleven Madison Park.  You know the saying of Whatever Happens at EMP STAYS at EMP, right?

I'mma break that rule and share a (blurry) photo of Daniel Boulud standing on top of the hostess stand at Eleven Madison Park with chef Daniel Humm, spraying the crowd with champagne while the DJ spun some Prince and some Snoop.  But that's ALL I'm gonna say about that party, because it was a writhing, grinding, awesome mess of 200 people who probably definitely had headaches the next morning day.

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On Sunday afternoon before the media and book awards, I had the distinct pleasure of having drinks and a lot of laughs with some amazing people -- friends old and new -- and thoroughly enjoyed our time together.  Some of them have blogs, some of them have books, some of them have columns, and some of them edit entire newspaper sections. All of them are Beard nominees and/or winners.  Give these guys some love (again, with the men... I KNOW):

Michael Ruhlman

Joe Yonan

Tim Carman

Francis Lam

Hank Shaw

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So what's up with me now that I'm back home and off the James Beard high?  Here's the dilly-o:  my dishwasher is d-e-a-d, dead.  And the repair guy can't get here until May freakin' 18th.  So, I'm gonna spend the next few days adapting some of the recipes in the Alinea cookbook to see what I can come up with for those of you who a) live in small apartments; and/or b) don't have dishwashers. 

When asked what tools are most important in doing a blog like mine, I always answer: patience, and a dishwasher.  So, I'm thinking I'm gonna adapt a lamb dish and the opah dish, and mix things up a bit.  You with me?  Good.  I knew you would be.

I've got a Q&A with me coming down the pike pretty soon (hit me up in the comments if there's anything you wanna know), and I'm planning to do an interview this week with Joe Catterson, the GM at Alinea -- and winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Service -- about service in the restaurant, service in general, and whatever else you'd like to know (you can submit your questions for Joe in the comments section, as well).   
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Here's Joe (with one of the press room's famous gin & tonics).  Don't you just wanna squeeze him for hours and hours?
 

See you on the flip side.....

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Your blog posts that night, along with your Twitter feed after the event ended, were just awesome. Thanks for taking us all along for the ride.

Dude. I am incredibly jealous that you got to go the Beard Awards. Sounds like an incredible night. Glad you were able to have such an amazing time. I must've refreshed their page a thousand times to read your posts -- you got interviews with the big kahunas! Good on ya.

All I can say is :^p

What a great post to read on Monday morning.

Congratulations to you.

wonderful update! Sounds like a great trip! And I know what you mean about the camaraderie. I feel it at Taste of the Nation every year.

I have questions for Joe -- as I just went to Restaurant Eve (in old town Alexandria) and experienced very bizarre service -- like the servers ironing the table cloths in the dining room. During dinner service. Is it just me, or is that weird??

It sounds like such an amazing event. I love hearing that in general, everyone was supportive and happy for one another. Must have given the whole event a really great buzz.

On a side note, my husband is madly in love with Boulud after seeing him on his show After Hours and then eating at his restaurant in Vegas. He said that he just seems like the kind of guy you'd want to take out and party all night. The above picture kind of helps to prove that point. ;)

Well done! Loved following the Beard tweets. I think the shoeless pic says it all.

Similar warmbuzzbuzz vibe at IACP.

"I really loved the camaraderie and seeing men hug each other."

Hee! Another reason to love chefs AND beisbol!

Oooh, I'm so jealous. I've wanted to go to these awards since I was a kid! Granted I'm not that old, but still.

I have a question for Joe! What kind of people do they look for when selecting servers? Is it more based on an approachable personality or one's ability to grasp and convey the chef's concepts? Does a passion for the food play a role as well? When I ate there I found that EVERYONE knew what was going on conceptually, which you don't find everywhere. Thanks.

LOVED your live blogging. I am quite envious that you got to go to the James Beard Awards. Going to a party where Daniel Boulud is standing on top of the hostess stand and spraying people with champagne is now on my bucket list!

Awesome! Loved reading about it all.....

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