Female chefs triumphed in surprising numbers this week as this year’s James Beard Awards were handed out in Chicago.
Suzanne Goin, the chef behind the acclaimed Lucques and a fixture of the restaurant scene in Los Angeles for many years, won top honors as Outstanding Chef. Dahlia Narvaez, also based in Los Angeles, took home the prize for Outstanding Pastry Chef for her creative work at Osteria Mozza. And Daniela Soto-Innes, who oversees the day-to-day cooking at the Mexican chef Enrique Olvera’s New York City restaurant Cosme, was named Rising Star Chef.
Representatives of the James Beard Foundation said 2004 was the last year that all three of those awards had gone to women. But even more women shared in the evening’s bounty, a striking amount of recognition in what is still a male-dominated profession.
Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery & Cafe in Boston was named Outstanding Baker. Renee Erickson of the Seattle restaurants the Whale Wins and the Walrus and the Carpenter was named Best Chef in the Northwest.
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Leah Chase, the 93-year-old grande dame of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans, received a standing ovation upon appearing on stage in a wheelchair to accept a Lifetime Achievement award.
“This gives me courage to keep going for about 10 or 12 more years,” she said.
Top prizes also showed a notable degree of geographical diversity. The Best New Restaurant medal went to Shaya, in New Orleans, while Alinea, the trailblazing temple to experimental cuisine in Chicago, captured the prestigious Outstanding Restaurant award.
New York claimed some major prizes, including the award for Soto-Innes of Cosme. Ken Friedman of restaurants like the Spotted Pig and Salvation Burger was named Outstanding Restaurateur. Eleven Madison Park received a prize for Outstanding Service, and Maison Premiere, a palace of cocktails and shellfish in Brooklyn, got a nod for Outstanding Bar Program.
The veteran chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto was recognized as the Best Chef in New York City, while Zak Pelaccio of Fish & Game in Hudson, New York, was honored as Best Chef in the Northeast.
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, who started out with the funky meat-fixated restaurant Animal and have gradually built a growing Los Angeles empire with restaurants like Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s and Petit Trois, landed the prize for Best Chefs in the West.