The Beardies

Okay—so they’re not called “the Beardies,” but we’re feeling lazy and the James Beard Foundation Awards is kind of a mouthful. Anyway, it’s finally been confirmed by the James Beard Foundation that our own Chef Peter Kelly — who must be the hardest working man in the restaurant business– is shortlisted for the nomination of that foundation’s Best Chef in the Northeast Award If he wins it, the award would be for Xaviars, his swank Rockland County spot. As we mentioned in our March 3rd post, “Swimming and Eating”, the short list featuring Chef Peter Kelly’s name had already been leaked on the New York Magazine website, but the Beard House refused to officially confirm or deny the leaked list until last week. The final nominees will be announced today, when five finalists in each category will be winnowed down from twenty semifinalists. Look for a special EATER bulletin later today when the news is released.

We managed to catch up with Kelly, who has a spooky ability to appear in ten places at once, simultaneously greeting every diner personally at each of his four restaurants, while appearing on daily morning television and kicking Iron Chef butt nightly. (Plus, it’s his voice that you hear on X20’s phone tree…eerie.) Charmingly, he not only personally fielded our call but was totally unaware of his short-listing: “What? Really? That’s nice. I mean—it’s an honor. There must be pretty slim pickings this year.” Kelly’s complete lack of Beard-awareness makes a refreshing change from chefs like Jason Neroni, whose shameless vote-grubbing for the Rising Star Chef of the Year Award has become a by-word for tacky.

The final awards will be given on Sunday, June 8, and the event will be co-chaired by our own Chef Dan Barber. Barber, as usual, is also in the news — most recently in The New York Observer for signing with David Black, described in the article as a high-powered literary agent. (Chef Barber, incidentally, is also up for a Beard Award for Outstanding Chef of the Year for Manhattan’s Blue Hill, for which he’s already won the Best Chef NYC award.) Barber groupies will note that the chef regularly appears in the pages of the New York Times in articles as diverse as op-ed pieces and hilarious essays, with the occasional rumination on raising almond-flavored carrots. He also contributed a chapter to Don’t Try This at Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World’s Greatest Chefs (eds. Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman), plus, he’s written an essay in our very own Westchester Magazine. The book projects he’s reportedly shopping around? A cookbook for the non-agrarian home chef and a narrative collection of essays “about the culture of eating and sustainable agriculture”. We’ll be first on line for either volume, though free signed copies are always appreciated.

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Barber is, of course, following in the footsteps of other scribbling chefs, most notably those of that scathingly bitter, admitted ham-and-egger Anthony Bourdain. That pioneer was joined by our other personal hero, killer culinary Riot Grrrrl Gabrielle Hamilton. Her lush writing for the New Yorker snagged her the book deal for the soon to be released Blood, Bones and Butter. And we knew her back when…

And here’s something that chills our bones even more than March’s bitter winter winds: as reported in Florence Fabricant’s Off The Menu column last week, www.buffetdelagare.net/> Buffet de la Gare’s Luc Dimnet is returning to his old post at Manhattan’s Brasserie. He left that Midtown trad French in 2006 to buy the romantic, pressed-tin-clad Irvington spot with his lovely wife, Nicole—and now he’s apparently returned to the Manhattan post. We caught up with Nicole when we heard the news, and she assures us that for now, Luc will be running both kitchens. According to her, Luc was left with little choice but to return to Brasserie when revenues at Buffet de la Gare remained static despite the punishing terms of their ownership agreement.

The Dimnets’ experience reveals an astonishing fact in the food business: the financial risks that these restaurateurs take makes them look like big stakes gamblers to the rest of us chickens. I mean, when was the last time we staked everything we owned on a dream? The lesson: we should skip all the McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Starbucks runs and patronize our favorite local restaurants … because they might not always be there when we deign to remember them.

Unveiled: A Boutique Bridal Brunch is February 25!

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