Events | James Beard Awards 2012

Time. There never seems to be enough, and I find this painfully true whenever I return to New York. There is just too much in New York. Too many people, too many buildings, too many restaurants. So many friends and family, so many new tastes…

Events | James Beard Awards 2012

Time. There never seems to be enough, and I find this painfully true whenever I return to New York. There is just too much in New York. Too many people, too many buildings, too many restaurants. So many friends and family, so many new tastes to explore and nostalgic tastes to revisit. And never enough time. My visits home become guided by packed schedules and cross town dashes in taxis and the train; there are early lunches, followed by late lunches, early coffee dates, followed by late coffees. It’s par for the course – I have learned that when you go home, you are on the go and on the chew, and it is always worth it to meet everyone and to taste as much as possible.

From the moment we landed, the feasting began, and perhaps the most memorable meal of my getaway was a dinner that had long been discussed – my husband was eager to take me to David Burke Townhouse, and we were not disappointed. It was one of those magical meals – yes, the food was perfectly executed, but more so, it was that beautiful symphony of pleasant company, delicious wines, attentive service and sweet endings that made it a meal I will never forget. With stomachs and hearts quite full, it was time to head over to the illustrious Chef’s Night Out.

Chef’s Night Out

The annual prelude to the James Beard Awards & Gala, this party hosted by Bon Appetit brings together the Who’s Who of the culinary world. It all began at 10 o’clock, a time that made complete sense, perhaps the only time that makes sense, as kitchens wind down on a Sunday evening. As far as food and drinks go, it was not a gluttonous bash as I had expected (and frankly, to my satiated stomach, it came as a relief that I was not missing much), but more so, Chelsea Market became a place to see and be seen for culinary rockstars (and wannabes). Here, chefs and industry luminaries were able to stroll in, relax, and catch up with one another. Andrew Zimmern was seen, sporting his Save Foie button on his lapel as he shared his thoughts on the great Julia Child for the Julia Child Tribute film crew. Thomas Keller walked the halls, very much the veritable culinary godfather, as he was greeted left and right by peers and fans alike. Curtis Stone was always in a circle of bubbly chatter, Ted Allen still seemed on cloud nine from his two James Beard Award wins just evenings prior. There was a strong showing from the Top Chef alumni, mingling through the crowds. Hugh Acheson and Geoffrey Zakarian walked in with a pep in their step – something makes me think that the evening hours felt young to them.

As for me, I found the best way to enjoy the evening was by soaking in the ambiance and appreciating my surroundings. It was kind of nice being a fly on the the gorgeous brick wall. It was, in my mind, a fun way to end the ultimate date night.

My date for the evening.

We ran into some friends and sampled our tolerance for Negroni (limited, I’m afraid). It was a wonderful surprise to see Justin from Justcook NYC, sipping his Negroni in the swankily lit halls. I was happy to run into Gwen from Bunkycooks and her husband, and to chat with her about the James Beard Media Awards on Friday where she was a finalist for Best Individual Blog. I peeked into the shop windows where some were still very hard at work.

As we left the party, a young woman with hopes of entering the halls of culinary masterminds was gently turned away. With the hum of the party chatter fading with each step, it was a reminder of the energy I know and love about New York – the electricity that comes from creative minds and the people who work so hard to make dreams a reality in the city that never sleeps.

James Beard Awards

After a full Monday of lunch meetings and coffee dates, the evening of the James Beard Awards quickly arrived. Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall set the stage for the evening. The red carpet paved the way for glittering gowns, towering stilettos, tuxedos and chef coats alike. The paparazzi was in full force, snapping the chefs turned glamour stars. Alton Brown could be seen weaving in and out of the crowds, just moments before he was to stand on the historic stage and host the awards with his witty and affable personality. The buzz was electric, and it was clear that for the nominees and all the people who have in some way been involved in their success, there was excitement over who might be wearing the coveted silver ribbon with James Beard’s jolly likeness at the end of the evening. To attend the awards required patience, as there were so many medals to bestow, but as we know, patience is always rewarded.

For me, it was an honor to see nominees not only from my beloved San Francisco, but my native New York and the “second” city I also once called home, Chicago, honored that evening. For San Francisco, I was proud to quietly cheer on our nominees, and it was especially wonderful to see Emily Luchetti inducted into the Who’s Who of Food & Beverage and Nancy Oakes accept the award for Boulevard (Outstanding Restaurant). For my husband and I, that was an award we saw with particular satisfaction, as Boulevard has been a place of many special dinners, where we celebrated anniversaries and many memorable moments.

You know when a speech is enjoyable when, even after several hours of sitting, you are captivated. Several hours into the ceremony, Wolfgang Puck accepted his award for Lifetime Achievement, and despite his remarkably lengthy acceptance, I found myself sad when it was over. I was so enchanted, and surprised that not only is he a culinary master, but a gifted story teller.

I said that patience is always rewarded. Indeed, by the end of the awards, it was a feast for the eyes to see the Ace of Cakes himself, Duff Goldman, roll out his masterpiece. It was quite a cake and the first thing I went to see at the Gala following the ceremony.

The tastes of the evening were prepared by a glittering lineup of chefs, most of whom hold James Beard Awards. Their dishes interpreted recipes from James Beard himself, and they did not disappoint. As we carved our way through the crowds and sipped and tasted our way through Avery Fisher Hall, we were greeted by fantastic flavors and a spirit of celebration.

The hospitality that is so critical in this industry was evident that evening, and I am always impressed when the chefs who have worked so hard to bring us delicious bites can still be met with smiles on their face. Tre Wilcox served his perfectly executed shrimp with taragon-parmesan grits with a smile, and as I pressed through one crowd, I was offered a blini with smoked salmon and caviar by none other than Gary Danko. When everyone else seemed to be celebrating or moving on to after parties, they were out there, still working hard to make it a memorable evening for everyone. Award or not, that to me is a measure of success, and those little memories are the ones I will remember always.

Like all good things, the evening drew to a close. It was time to cross the plaza and leave it all behind. As the winners moved on to continue celebrating their wins, I couldn’t help but think of all the manpower behind each shiny medal. In another year, there will be another red carpet, and more awards. Another year of hard work. But before the year begins, they surely deserve a few more hours of celebration.


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  1. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    Liren – I loved this post! I am so excited for you and hubby that your were able to attend this wonderful and prestigous event. You both looked stunning. What amazing photos as I have come to enjoy over and over again. The clock photos are simply amazing!!!!

    • liren

      I’m so glad you liked the post, Lisa, thank you so much. The clock and those brick walls were so alluring!

    • liren

      Justin, it was definitely so nice to see a familiar face! Glad we ran into you, it was nice to catch up :)

  2. Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings

    Great recap! Wish I could have witnessed everything for myself, but I’m happy just hearing it from you! And Thomas Keller…Awe. My. Gawd. Per Se, to me, is my one true restaurant love! Must have been wonderful to be back home and to attend such a prestigious festival!

    • liren

      With so many places to eat and so little time, I still haven’t been able to enjoy Per Se! Hoping next time, Jen… :)

  3. Cristina

    What a great place to hold the pre-party at Chelsea Market! It looks like it was an awe-inspiring experience to have attended the Gala and to have so many food industry celebrities in one place! Thank you for sharing your experience there and all the fantastic images you took. My favorite images, though, were of you and your Hubbs. You both look so elegant! :)

  4. Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen

    What an enchanting post! I love the NYC buzz for all the reasons you mentioned and attending those prestigious events must’ve been so exciting and memorable. And you both look so A-list to boot :).

    • liren

      Going home definitely reminds me of how NYC will always be a very special place – just love the energy! And thank you so much – it’s always nice to dress up once in a while ;)

  5. Patty

    Loved your post Liren! Beautiful photos and great reportage- you look lovely as well;-)

  6. Cheryl

    Liren- what an amazing post, I loved every word and picture! Reading it brought me such enjoyment, a great way to start my day. You are the best!

    • liren

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Cheryl! Happy Mother’s Day weekend :)

  7. Sandra's Easy Cooking

    Amazing post indeed! What a great event and so happy that you two were able to attend and show us bits of it through your beautiful photos, Liren…you looked gorgeous!

    • liren

      Thank you, Sandra, you are so kind! We were so happy to attend, it was definitely an experience to remember.

  8. Trish

    Wow how exciting! Sounds like an incredible evening! You and your hubby look stunning. Thanks for the recap. I always love reading your posts.

    • liren

      Aw, thanks, Trish! It was definitely an incredible trip – for us, it was especially exciting because we hardly return to NY at the same time – that was a treat in itself!

    • liren

      Thank you, Laura! There was so much to capture, I hope I was able to do it justice.

  9. Brian

    What a recap! I’m just so amazed by everything about this event! Great that you were able to attend.

  10. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Thank you so much for sharing this event! You two look fabulous!!!!! My husband and I are so happy that his good friend Jamie won the award ( and we’re so proud of him! Wish we could see him on stage like you two did. :-) It was fun reading this post!

  11. Jennifer (Delicieux)

    Liren, what a wonderful event to attend and thank you so much for sharing it with us. It’s sounds like you both had a wonderful time. By the way, you look stunning in your dress!


    What’s left to say? Great post! Enjoyed living vicariously through your wonderful reporting and photography. BTW – can I just say that you and Tom looked amazing!

  13. Ken┃hungry rabbit

    As I read this post, I can’t help but smile because I got to hear some of the details directly from you. You must visit more often so we can sample a whole lot more than just ramen.

  14. Priscilla - She's Cookin'

    Your opening photo is a stunning prelude to the entire post. How wonderful that you were able to attend such an impressive gala – thanks for letting us live vicariously through your words and images!

  15. Jean

    I agree with everyone that all your images are simply beautiful, especially those of you and your date. :) What a fun, fun event to enjoy together. :)

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