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Feb 27, 201410:20 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Lots of Locals Get Nods from the James Beard Foundation

Several New Orleans chefs and restaurants made the list of semifinalists for the 2014 Restaurant and Chef Award category.

Donald Link

COURTESY OF DONALDLINK.COM

Fresh on the heels of my piece about how I don't like “top ten” lists and the entirely justified implication that I disapprove generally of ranking restaurants comes the announcement of the James Beard Foundation nominees for 2014. New Orleans and south Louisiana are well-represented. Pêche got a nod for best new restaurant; Arnaud's French 75 and Cure were recognized for Outstanding Bar Program; Donald Link is on the list of outstanding* chefs; JoAnn Clevenger is among the nominees for Outstanding Restaurateur; Brigtsen's is mentioned for Outstanding Service; the Grill Room at the Windsor Court is one of the most Outstanding Wine Programs; in the category “Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional,” Ann Tuennerman made the grade for Tales of the Cocktail; in the category “Best Chef: South” Justin Devillier, Ryan Prewitt, Alon Shaya, Michael Stoltzfus, Isaac Toups and Sue Zemanick were all named.

I wish them all luck except that Link kid. He's just piling on at this point with the Beard awards. Dude has a cabinet full of them. I've heard Link made a waffle iron out of two Beard awards and steel from the knives of chefs he vanquished in some sort of hyper-violent "Chopped" competition or something.

I actually have “stories” about pretty much all of the nominees, and not all of those stories are interesting. I met Sue Zemanick and she was very nice. Justin Devillier's daughter is named Ruby, which is my stepdaughter's name. Mike Stoltzfus is a friend and Isaac Toups has now impressed the hell out of me at three restaurants, I believe (Mid-City, Brah.) Prewitt is, like Toups, less well-known than he should be. I suspect Pêche will change that.

Then there's JoAnn Clevenger. She's a great lady, and one of the best restaurateurs in a town full of great restaurateurs. The thing that struck me about JoAnn the first time I dined at the Upperline was that she recommended other local restaurants to her customers. I listened in as she took phone calls during an early dinner service. They were booked, and she wasn't rude but she also wasn't obsequious – she just told callers they had no room and suggested alternatives. She's always had a great eye for art and for chefs, too.  

Ann Tuennerman is also nominated, and if she doesn't win this year it won't be long. She's hugely important in the world of cocktails and spirits, and a sweetheart to boot.

I would very much like to tell you that one of the nominees is unworthy; that you could find better food at Burger King and better service at a self-serve coffee stand. I'd like to write that one of the chefs nominated routinely serves frozen chicken fingers dipped in white truffle oil. I wish I could say I wouldn't eat at one of the nominated restaurants with Ian McNulty's mouth, but I can't. I mean, I could say that and more, but I won't because it's not true and it would likely get me in trouble with my editors.

So I'll close by wishing all of the nominees good luck, and continued success regardless of what the folks in New York decide. 

 

*CORRECTION: An earlier draft of this article incorrectly named the Outstanding Chef category. We apologize for this error.

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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