The James Beard Foundation (JBF) Awards, the food industry’s highest honor, colloquially known as The Oscars of Food, honors the best in the culinary industry from chefs and restaurants to books and lifetime achievements. A nomination itself is a victory – to win is a dream come true. 

Throughout his career, James Beard – an American cook – shared his passion for American cuisine at his Greenwich Village townhouse with students, authors, chefs and many other food and beverage professionals. His passing in 1985 spurred Peter Kump, cooking school founder, and a group of friends and colleagues to continue Beard’s passion and love for culinary creativity by founding the James Beard Foundation.

Since its founding, the Foundation has evolved into a prestigious organization – hosting over 250 events annually at the Beard House (James Beard’s Greenwich townhouse), establishing the JBF Awards in 1991, creating a scholarship program distributing more than $3.5 million in cash awards and tuition waivers to culinary students and launching numerous educational programs informing thousands about the importance of food and its place in modern life.

On the following pages, Jet Linx shines a spotlight on some of the recent recipients of the James Beard “Best Chef” Awards and the 2017 winner of “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.”

Eventide Oyster Co.

2017 BEST CHEF: NORTHEAST

CHEF ANDREW TAYLOR & CHEF MIKE WILEY

“Best Chef: Northeast” 2017 James Beard Award winners Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, named their Portland, Maine restaurant after Andrew’s beach cabin located on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. 

 

Taylor and Wiley, under their Big Tree Hospitality umbrella, opened Eventide Oyster Co. in 2012, offering cult favorites cultivated from nearby Casco Bay and the Greater Gulf of Maine – offering redefined coastal New England cuisine.

“Located in the heart of Portland’s Old Port, Eventide is an elevated take on the classic American oyster bar, marked by convivial atmosphere ideal for gatherings both celebratory and relaxed,” Wiley described. “When we opened Eventide, the city lacked an elevated oyster bar. We wanted to bring something new to the city in a very thoughtful way. Every aspect of the restaurant was carefully considered, from the color on the wall to the material of the bar. In addition to our signature dishes, like the Brown Butter Lobster Roll, we are always pushing ourselves to present a rotating selection of specials, highlighting the best of-the-moment ingredients.”

Taylor describes Eventide’s signature dish, Brown Butter Lobster Roll, as an “elevated interpretation of the iconic butter or mayo styles and encapsulates Eventide’s overall approach to traditional seaside fare. Combining fresh lobster meat with a nutty, salty brown butter vinaigrette, atop a bao-style steamed bun, the roll is rich yet polished.”

Taylor notes his favorite dish to make is Eventide’s Fish Sandwich stating, “It’s our take on the Filet-O-Fish… it hits all the right comfort foods, but it’s infinitely more complex.”

Winning the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Northeast” has been a humbling experience for Taylor and Wiley. “We couldn’t have done it without our staff – every employee plays a vital role in maintaining the quality that Big Tree Hospitality has worked hard to achieve. We have the best staff!”

2007 BEST CHEF: SOUTH

CHEF DONALD LINK

Herbsaint

Established in 2000 on historic St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, Herbsaint and chef/owner Donald Link, a James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef: South in 2007, offers perfected French- Southern cuisine. 

 

The bistro offers contemporary and seasonal dishes paired with an eclectic wine list. Chef de Cuisine Rebecca Wilcomb also took home the James Beard Award “Best Chef: South” in 2017, and has been instrumental in maintaining Herbsaint’s quality while pushing the restaurant’s food to new levels. 

“Herbsaint feels like a casual French bistro situated in New Orleans… because it is,” Link stated. “French style but with Southern hospitality, that is. We aren’t too small or too big. Our experience is very cozy yet still refined at the same time.” 

Chef Link points to spaghetti with fried egg and guanciale, the short ribs and salsa verde, and the duck confit with dirty rice as signature dishes, noting Herbsaint’s gumbo as the top customer favorite. “It was one of the first things I learned to cook and is still one of my favorites to make. Gumbo has such a history and story and is very much like the culture in New Orleans.” 

Herbsaint’s location on St. Charles Avenue captures the New Orleans ambiance – approachable food and a deep wine list. “You can watch the street car go by through the night which has always been a favorite for me – especially sitting out on the sidewalk tables on a beautiful New Orleans night.” 

Chef Link’s upstanding career, commitment to the industry, and philanthropic efforts have earned him several accolades, including Louisiana Restaurant Association Restauranteur of the Year in 2012, James Beard Best American Cookbook winner in 2009, and multiple nominations for the James Beard Outstanding Chef award. 

When asked his reaction to winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South, he said, “I was very honored and very nervous. I don’t have any issues talking in front of people but this was a crowd of my peers and people who I look up to, so it was a very different and a humbling experience.” 

Hugo’s

2017 BEST CHEF: SOUTHWEST

CHEF HUGO ORTEGA

Chef Hugo Ortega, award winner of the 2017 James Beard “Best Chef: Southwest,” draws on his childhood memories spent cooking with his mother and grandmother in his native Mexico. 

 

In 2002, the critically acclaimed Hugo’s was born in Houston, Texas bringing authentic regional Mexican cuisine to the forefront of dining.

“Before opening Hugo’s, my father, brothers and I made a culinary pilgrimage back to Mexico,” Ortega explained. “Our journey took us some 4,000 miles around Mexico, along the east and west coasts and across the interior, eating, meeting the local cooks and rediscovering the remarkable history, textures, flavors and diversity found throughout this, beautiful, rugged land.”

Ortega returned with a renewed passion for the bounties found in Mexico and its delicious cuisine. “The street foods of Mexico are in many ways the most authentic record of Mexico’s culinary tradition,” stated Ortega. “It’s extremely diverse – as light and fresh as a seafood cocktail prepared by fishermen on the beach; as deep and complex as the moles of Oaxaca, Mexico, made with an astounding number of ingredients; and as earthy as the simplest homemade corn tortilla. It’s truest, purest forms are served by comericantes (merchants) in the streets.”

Choosing a favorite dish is difficult for Ortega – but he has a fondness for Cabrito. “Whenever someone would come to the ranch where I grew up with my grandmother, Cabrito was the celebratory dish we prepared. It reminds me of home,” he reflected. Other signature items include Cochinita Pibil, Taquito de Langosta (lobster taco), and churros stuffed with dulce de leche and served with Mexican hot chocolate.

Winning a James Beard Award has been the highlight of his career. “It is a great honor to be recognized by and among the top talents in the culinary world. I am so very grateful – and I accepted the award on behalf of not just myself, but my entire restaurant family, my loyal customers, and the great city of Houston. I also accepted it in honor of all the hardworking men and women across the country who spend long hours on their feet working to serve others, working to make a name for themselves and create a better life for themselves and their families. Winning the James Beard Award was the newest page in my American Dream story. I hope it made all of Houston proud!

2017 BEST

NEW RESTAURANT

Le Coucou

Crowned “Best New Restaurant” during the 2017 James Beard Awards, Le Coucou located in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, under the helm of Parisian Chef Daniel Rose and famed restauranteur Stephen Starr 

 

The restaurant features a romantic dining experience fulfilling Chef Rose’s personal vision of simple yet refined classic French cuisine. 

Chicago-native Rose debuted Le Coucou in 2016 after a vibrant culinary career in Paris, France, where his insanely popular restaurant Spring received incredible praise and distinction. It evolved into the Paris restaurant of choice among the international culinary elite including Gail Simmons, Alan Richman, Tim and Nina Zagat, Danny Meyer and Alain Ducasse. Rose’s vision, technique and culinary talents seamlessly transitioned to New York, offering fine French fare that has not graced the city in decades. 

Rose credits his business partnership with Starr when describing the success of Le Coucou in New York. “Picking New York City, I think it was really about who to work with, because it would be very ambitious,” he reflected. “It would be impossible for me to come to America, having never worked here, and just open a restaurant like I did. You need an operational structure to do it. Stephen was funny. We had a good laugh. We drove around town looking into spaces and crazy things.” 

Le Coucou’s ambiance and friendly service, paired with the most exclusive ingredients available, was an instant hit, and attracted celebrities from Kanye West to Henry Kissinger. It’s continued popularity boasts a month or more wait for a reservation. 

The menu will leave those with a penchant for French fare breathless. Guests can start with a sampling of hors d’oeuvres including Terrine de veau (veal terrine, pickled milkweed); Poireaux (leeks, hazelnuts); or Huitres tièdes, beurre aux algues (oysters warmed with seaweed butter). The menu then transitions into slightly larger dishes such as Quenelle de brochet, sauce américain (pike quenelle, lobster sauce; Anguilles frites au sarrasin (buckwheat fried Delaware eel, curry vinaigrette, herbs, citrus); or Oeuf Norvégien (egg, salmon, artichoke). And discerning diners won’t be at a loss for a filling entree with options like Canard et cerises (duck, cherries, black olives); Bar noir cuit sur les écailles (black bass, beurre blanc, fermented daikon); and Tout le lapin (all of the rabbit). 

Lucques

2017 WHO’S WHO OF FOOD & BEVERAGE IN AMERICA

CHEF SUZANNE GOIN

Born in Los Angeles to food-obsessed Francophile (a person who is fond of or greatly admires France or the French), Suzanne Goin, James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America 2017 winner and Outstanding Chef 2016 winner, has been on a culinary mission since her childhood. 

 

Goin has held positions at some of the most renowned restaurants in the United States, including Ma Maison, L’Orangerie in Los Angeles, Al Forno in Providence, Olives in Boston, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and Alain Passard’s Aprege in Paris – all before landing at Campanile as Executive Chef – the role that put her on the culinary map in Los Angeles.

In 1998, Goin and business partner Caroline Styne opened their flagship restaurant – Lucques – in West Hollywood, California, with incredible success. The following year, Goin took home Food and Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs in America” award. “Lucques is the reflection of my devotion to French cooking and my training early in my career working for incredible chefs both in France and the United States,” Goin stated.

Goin’s culinary empire flourished as she and Styne opened other concepts; a.o.c., Tavern, The Larder, and Larder Baking Company. Her establishments feature local and seasonal ingredients in European-inspired dishes, and Goin ensures menus are always fresh. “I personally go through the menus at all our restaurants and make changes for each season – often entirely new dishes that are not in our ‘repertoire,’” Goin pointed out. 

Traveling and fresh ingredients inspire Goin. “I like to think my food is accessible to a wide audience and that people embrace our gorgeous California produce, which plays a huge part in my dishes,” she stated. “We make it easy to dine out because we always offer dishes for vegetarians and vegans that are as thoughtfully created as the meat dishes.”

Of all the culinary accolades to be awarded, the James Beard Award is coveted and Goin feels, “Incredibly honored to be inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. I got into this because I love food and 

2017 BEST CHEF: SOUTHEAST

CHEF STEVEN SATTERFIELD

Miller Union

Chef Steven Satterfield, Executive Chef and co-owner of Miller Union in Atlanta, Georgia, took home “Best Chef: Southeast” during the 2017 James Beard Awards – an award he has been nominated for five times. 

 

The Georgia native’s knack for crafting delicious Southern cuisine with simplicity and seasonality has garnered the attention of restaurateurs across the country. 

“It is hard to describe because it is such a huge honor,” Chef Steven Satterfield said with gratitude. “The voters are all past winners so it is truly a peer nominated award. These are folks that have won for their excellent achievements so it’s like you’re being welcomed into the winners circle – it’s unreal.” 

Chef Satterfield credits his close relationship with local farmers allowing him to focus on seasonal and fresh produce. “If something is grown locally we try to incorporate it into our seasonal menu whether it is considered Southern or not,” Satterfield explained. “This allows us to branch out and be creative. The menu changes frequently, but one constant favorite is our Feta Snack. It comes from local Decimal Place Farms and is a whipped goat’s milk feta which we serve with vegetable crudité. It is so simple but fresh and satisfying every time. I especially love the crunch of radish with the dip.” 

Guests can expect an upscale and inviting dining experience, with tables made from reclaimed wood and not adorned with linens – just a simple candle on each table. Satterfield noted, “It feels almost as if you were eating in someone’s home. The restaurant is broken up into several rooms which each have their own personality.” 

Satterfield and his team remain committed to showing off the best of the South. “We know that people come here with high expectations and we try to exceed them – we never take our success for granted,” Satterfield concluded. 

OX Restaurant

2017 BEST CHEF: NORTHWEST

CHEF GABRIELLE QUIÑÓNEZ DENTON

After opening OX Restaurant with her husband Chef Greg Denton in 2012, Chef Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton saw their modern, Argentine-based steakhouse quickly top Portland’s list of “must visit” restaurants. 

 

Serving perfectly balanced dishes designed to appeal to the palates of the Pacific Northwest, Denton noted that she and her husband did not set out to create a steakhouse. “That’s what people usually think we are,” she noted. “So, when folks come in, they think the best thing they are going to eat is our grilled meat, but most often our guests leave admiring the seafood and vegetable dishes even more.”

As seasons change in Portland, so does the menu. “Oregon has an amazing bounty, though it can feel a little restricted for fresh ingredients in the cold winter months,” Denton reflected. “But that is when we get inspired the most. How many ways can you cook a butternut squash?!”

OX Restaurant offers guests a pleasant dining experience, where jazz and conversation mingle, followed closely by the sound of the grill crank wheels raising and lowering the grill grates to manage the crackling fire. “It sounds much like being pulled up the incline on a roller coaster,” Denton described. “And the smell is unforgettable. You can smell some smoke, but it is not over powering. It smells more like a combination of meat grilling and herbs warming.”

Denton points to their fresh clam chowder with smoked beef marrow bone, sliced jalapeños, and green onion as the dish they are most recognized for. “This dish has everything – it’s creamy, briny, spicy, crunchy, fatty, and fresh. It is a true flavor BOMB!” Denton exclaimed.

For the talented Denton couple, winning the James Beard Award came as a shocking and humbling surprise. “Amazement, confusion, and a touch of horror as we realized that we had to go up on stage to accept our award in front of hundreds of esteemed chefs and restaurateurs,” Denton explained when asked how it felt to win. “It was undoubtedly one of the greatest experiences we will ever have as professional chefs, and we feel so honored.”

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