Words & Deeds

Deeds: Why Boise chefs can’t win James Beard Awards

Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas of Janjou.
Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas of Janjou. Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

It’s definitely worth celebrating that a Boise chef and baker recently were named semifinalists for the 2016 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards.

It’s also worth lamenting that these talented individuals have little chance of advancing past the semifinals.

Kris Komori, chef de cuisine at State & Lemp, 2870 W. State St., has been nominated in the category of Best Chef: Northwest. Not far away on State Street, Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas, co-owner and pastry chef at Janjou Pâtisserie, 1754 W. State St., has been nominated for the Outstanding Baker award.

Don’t get me wrong. Being a James Beard semifinalist is potentially a career-changing honor. Created in 1990, the James Beard Awards are sometimes referred to as the Oscars of food.

But most of the judges in our region are from Portland and Seattle. Do you think those judges are zipping over to dine in Boise regularly? That they’re inclined to vote for a Boise chef? Especially when Portland and Seattle are among the nation’s elite restaurant cities?

I’m sorry to drop that food-politics fly in your soup. It’s unfair, right? On the other hand, being recognized at all with Portland and Seattle sitting at the grown-ups table is something Boise shouldn’t take for granted. Boise also had two semifinalists in 2015. The Modern Hotel and Bar’s chef Nate Whitley was nominated for Best Chef: Northwest, while Michael Runsvold of Garden City’s Acme Bakeshop was selected for Outstanding Baker.

Just don’t expect to hear Boise mentioned when finalists are revealed on March 15. Winners will be announced May 2 at the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago.

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(Update Feb. 26: The Paul Simon concert sold out immediately after it went on sale. Promoters say it was the fastest sellout in Outlaw Field history.)

The average age of Outlaw Field concert headliners this season is 81.

Nothing beats experience, right?

That small-sample number will skew younger when the Idaho Botanical Garden announces more summer shows. For now, however, 74-year-old Paul Simon (May 23 concert) and 89-year-old Tony Bennett (June 2) anchor a solid, sensible marketing strategy: Target that financially flush gray-haired fan, baby. As in baby boomer. Beat those bucks out of ’em with a cane.

In reality, both concerts should appeal to a wide demographic. In the past few years, Bennett has enjoyed a comeback of sorts by getting chummy with millennial Lady Gaga.

But Simon, in particular, should send concert fans of all ages cartwheeling to the nearest ticket outlet. It’s risky to boldly proclaim that a veteran performer has never gigged in Boise, but I believe this to be true in Simon’s case. (Here it comes. Some old hippie is going to email me a scan of his ticket stub from a forgotten Simon & Garfunkel gig at Bronco Stadium in 1969.)

All indications point to a special evening. Recent Simon setlists have included hits such as “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “Graceland” and “Still Crazy After All These Years.” The majority of his spring/summer tour looks like it will happen at indoor venues. Those magical Boise Foothills could have a transcendent effect on everyone — including Simon.

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Bring eyedrops if you surf over to the Treefort Music Fest website (treefortmusicfest.com). You’re gonna be squinting.

Treefort posted its schedule this week. An insane-sounding 450-plus acts are slated to perform March 23-27 at 20 Downtown Boise venues.

So. Many. Bands. But, but — where are the big, established names at the top of the poster, you ask? You know, the ones at Sasquatch and Coachella?

That’s not Treefort. In its fifth year, Treefort remains truer than ever to its emerging-act origins.

This will test casual music fans. But ticket sales are trending upward, festival director Eric Gilbert says, particularly from out of state.

In terms of across-the-board density and strength, “this is our best lineup we’ve ever had,” he says. “For sure.”

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Along with provoking amiable input from bone-marrow noshers, last week’s notebook column (“A bone marrow restaurant in Boise? Um, yum”?) generated other entertaining reactions.

▪  My puzzlement about the “amazing” bakery at soon-to-be-closed Paul’s Market stores elicited the requisite one irritated caller. But my favorite response was a convincing email from a woman who has savored Paul’s doughnuts for 14 years: “Think of your favorite doughnut,” she instructed. “Then triple that taste 20 million times. THAT IS WHAT A PAUL’S MARKET DOUGHNUT TASTES LIKE!! The bear claws are loaded with sugar and cinnamon and are huge, like a real bear claw. ... You don’t know what you have been missing. All their doughnuts are made fresh daily. Better get there before 10 A.M.”

Wow. I’ve never had a pastry inspire me to imagine eating part of an actual grizzly.

▪  Did me picking on poor Doc last week have anything to do with the editing? No clue. But after yet another revision, the “coming soon” banner outside Doc’s Bar at 11th and Front streets finally is error-free.

I’m raising a toast to Doc — and taking full credit, of course: Your wellcome, grammer geeks.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds

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