Maybe the fourth time is a charm for charismatic chef José Andres. After coming up short the previous three years, Andrés finally took home the coveted Chef of the Year at the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards. Announced at a gala in New York City last evening, Andrés and his critically acclaimed Minbar beat out Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco; Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles; Paul Kahan of Blackbird in Chicago; and Charles Phan of The Slanted Door in San Francisco.
Other local chefs didn’t fare as well. Johnny Monis (Komi), Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve) and Peter Pastan (Obelisk) were all bested by Michael Solomonov (Zahav) in Philadelphia for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.
On a personal note, I’m beginning to question the veracity of the Foundation’s Awards. Monis has been a finalist for an Award four years in a row – and Komi is overwhelmingly considered the best restaurant in DC (Washingtonian would agree). If Andrés is the nation’s best chef, Monis is most certainly the best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. If Monis isn’t, it’s either Cathal Armstrong – a finalist the past five years – or Peter Pastan – a finalist the past three.
Others top winners include Eleven Madison Park (Best Restaurant), ABC Kitchen (Best New Restaurant) and Per Se (Best Service).