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Why I like the James Beard Awards

Sunday night was the culmination of the annual James Beard awards in New York City. I like the James Beard awards. I think they matter. Oftentimes in our industry, there is so much written, reviewed, discussed, and critiqued, it’s nice, once a year, to pause as an industry and recognize truly remarkable accomplishments by some amazingly talented people. Sure, everyone will argue about who won and who should have won, but the institution of the James Beard Foundation continues to be held in the highest regard by the food community, and I hope it always continues to be that way.

For the lay person, the James Beard awards are the food equivalent to the Oscars. Eponymously named for preeminent food icon, James Beard, the awards are given to  winners who are selected by more than 600 industry professionals and honored the first week of every May in New York City.  (A few years back, Chef Jody Adams invited me down to shuck oysters at the reception beforehand. I was star struck and it remains today one of the coolest experiences I’ve had since joining ICO).

At Island Creek, we are as much fans of the food industry as we are participants in it. So as the awards were unveiled last night, I was locked on to my Twitter feed. Reading people’s thoughts as the names were announced brought a layer of depth to the conversation that used to take a few days to unfold. Oh, Twitter…

My takeaway every year is that Island Creek is so, SO fortunate to work with the best this business has to offer. Chef Michael Anthony at Gramercy Park, now best Chef New York, has been a great supporter of ours. Grant Achatz’s, Next, won best new restaurant. It’s crazy that our oysters are served there. Bentel and Bentel was awarded best restaurant design for their treatment of Le Bernardin. We were fortunate enough to have Peter Bentel design ICOB. He is incredible. And for No. 9 Park to be recognized for their wine program, wow. Boston’s long been lucky to have the treasure that is Cat Silirie; I’m happy her efforts have been recognized.

To the remaining nominees and winners, congratulations. What an accomplishment to be recognized in one hell of a competitive industry. I can say, I’m already psyched about next year’s awards. Certainly, over the course of the year, some amazing stories about the food industry will be told, and talented people recognized, but not with the same prominence that comes with being a Beard Winner.

As I said, we are fans first and foremost, and Sunday night was a great night to be a fan.

-Shore Gregory, Executive VP, ICO

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