Chefs and other food pros win James Beard awards

“Food matters,” say the folks at the James Beard Foundation in New York City. How right they are. And how serious. The foundation’s mission is to “celebrate, nurture and honor America's diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.”

Which would have delighted Beard, the celebrated chef-cookbook author known for mentoring professional and novice chefs and food enthusiasts around the country (1903 to 1985). Though Beard’s first love was American cuisine, let’s not forget that he and chef-cookbook author Julia Child first introduced French cooking to meat-and-potatoes America in the 1950s and 1960s.

The gold-standard James Beard Foundation Awards were presented last Saturday night, highlighted by these categories (the complete list is here):

Outstanding Chef: Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles

Outstanding Restaurant: The Slanted Door, San Francisco

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York City

Outstanding Restaurateur: Barbara Lynch, Barbara Lynch Gruppo (No. 9 Park, Menton, B&G Oysters and others), Boston

Rising Star Chefs (tie): Jimmy Bannos, Jr., the Purple Pig, Chicago; and Blaine Wetzel, the Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Wash.

Best New Restaurant: Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans