This weekend, I caught up with Hank Shaw, who won a James Beard Award Friday night in New York for best blog.
Shaw was traveling with significant other Holly Heyser, journalist in residence at California State University, Sacramento (and the one responsible for many of the photos on the blog).
For food writers, chefs and restaurateurs, recognition from the James Beard Foundation is akin to winning an Academy Award. It brings more attention and attracts plenty of new opportunities.
I asked Shaw, whose blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (at honest-food.net) about the awards ceremony and what it felt like when he heard his name called.
The Friday ceremony was at Gotham Hall, a massive, old art deco building with a large rotunda. There were about 500 people in attendance (the awards for chefs and restaurants was held Monday) and it was emceed by "Chopped" host Ted Allen.
"It was a swanky affair," Shaw said. "Everybody was dressed up and the room was buzzing."
I asked him about the meal, prepared by three chefs from San Diego, but Shaw said he was so nervous that his stomach was churning and "things got blurry."
When the ceremony began, Shaw waited nervously at his table. Several of his friends with "wild" backgrounds who forage, fish or hunt, were nominated in other categories but did not win. Shaw had psyched himself up to lose too, in part so he wouldn't be disappointed (this was his third nomination).
Then came time for his category, and if you've been reading food blogs, you know the quality is high, the competition fierce.
And when Shaw heard his name?
"I basically stood up and shouted," he said with a laugh.
He walked to the stage and Allen put the gold medal around Shaw's neck. Shaw said he thought back to his days as a track-and-field athlete, noting he once dreamed of going to the Olympics only to realize he didn't have that level of talent.
"(Friday) night, I got my Olympic medal," he said.
Shaw is one of three James Beard Award winners from Sacramento. Elaine Corn won for her 1994 book "Now You're Cooking: Everything a Beginner Needs to Know to Start Cooking Today." And on Monday, the Sacramento restaurant Frank Fat's won a James Beard Award in a special lifetime achievement category, America's Classic.
After the big news, Shaw, Heyser and friends left Gotham Hall and hit the town to celebrate. First stop was for oysters at the John Dory Oyster Bar. Then they went for a nightcap at the historic Algonquin Hotel, which is famous in literary circles for its Algonquin Roundtable a group of renowned writers and editors who convened daily for the better part of a decade.
While he was in New York, Shaw made certain to eat and eat some more. Saturday, he and Heyser stopped at some of the city's top spots, including Saxon + Parole (known for its "grilled meats and aquatic delights"), Little Italy's Peasant and modernist-Italian standout L'Artusi.
Shaw, who has a new book coming out in October ("Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild" Ten Speed Press, $24.99, 240 pages), had also been invited to brunch at the Michelin three-star Restaurant Daniel, owned by renowned French chef Daniel Boulud.
Asked how it felt to finally be a James Beard Award winner, Shaw laughed and said, "It doesn't suck."
Call The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @blarob.