JBF 2013 seminfinals discussion
Below is a list culled from the recently posted eater article (http://bit.ly/ZdMw27).
Was wondering if anyone had thoughts- surprises (good or bad)? what's missing?
"Puritan & Company, for Best New Restaurant
· The Hawthorne, for Outstanding Bar Program
· Barbara Lynch of No. 9 Park, for Outstanding Chef
· Maura Kilpatrick of Oleana, for Outstanding Pastry Chef
· Oleana, for Outstanding Restaurant
· Roger Berkowitz of Legal Sea Foods, for Outstanding Restaurateur
· Eastern Standard, for Outstanding Service
· Troquet, for Outstanding Wine Program
· Will Gilson of Puritan & Company, for Rising Star Chef of the Year
· Tim Maslow of Strip-T's, for Rising Star Chef of the Year
· Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa, for Best Chef: Northeast
· Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Cafe, for Best Chef: Northeast
· Michael Leviton of Lumiere, for Best Chef: Northeast
· Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother, for Best Chef: Northeast"
to throw my own commentary in, i was a bit surprised to see, given how recently it has opened, puritan & co. make it in for best new resto (i enjoyed my first visit there, but would probably have picked something else if i were to use that label on a boston resto),
and similarly, if will gilson is getting 'rising star' chef based on its opening/first couple of months, i find that a bit premature (if its based more on the history of past couple of years for him, of which i admittedly only know basics, that might make more sense).
this is not to say i don't like puritan; i think i follow bn lee's review that its a very solid place that doesn't feel like its quite lived up to its potential, which is why i was a bit surprised to see the dual nominations.
edit: i should be clear, that, despite being surprised, that i'm proud of the work that team is doing and excited for their success. always cool to see a restaurant get recognition.
It looks like the finalists were just announced... Best Chef Northeast: Jamie Bissonnette, Joanne Chang, Gerry Hayden, Melissa Kelly, Barry Maiden
Nice to see 3 of the 5 are Boston/Cambridge chefs. I've already said my piece on Joanne Chang, but these nominations just show how a lot of this is driven by popularity/public profile.
First and foremost congrats to all, Second off i love Joanne Chang, But she is Super out of place as best chef Northeast, she Should be listed under pastry chef, as best chef northeast should not be known for sticky buns & turkey sandwiches. Next Will Gilson, who is very talented, is more lucky than talented to say the least, having been open for only 2 months with mixed reviews, it is hard to imagine this type of acclaim prior to all of the local reviews coming out. Barbara Lynch hires incredibly well and her teams certainly deserve it. The Hawthorne has been off to a super good start, Jackson Cannon totally deserves all of the recognition for his passion. Maura Kilpatrick has been one of the most talented pastry chefs in boston for years , (except maybe JIHO at Lespalier who recently left for korea). Oleana has been a great restaurant for many years... so no arguments there. No one Cares about roger berkowitz, even though he may be a great restauranteur, his restaurants suck, so you can write him off. Eastern Standard certainly has great service, though i have a hard time seeing them in this calliber with some of the other greats... (can you really compare it to service at Del Posto?) . Troquet is a diamond in the rough, and deserves every bit of their nom. Tim Maslow is a good Chef, but Strip T's is basically a dive, not to mention being buddies with david chang never hurt anyones chances. Jamie Bissonnette is Basically a shoe in for winning Best Chef Northeast this year. That Being said the only wild card that could stand in Jamie's way might be Matt Jennings. Michael Leviton does not deserve to be on this list in any way shape or form, lumiere basically peaked 8-10 years ago, and now he is very focused on area 4, which i actually like for lunch. However I have never once had a good meal in newton, including at Lumiere. Finally it is great to see Barry Maiden on the List, his restaurant is consistantly great, and he is incredibly hard working, cheers to that.
I do feel that there were a few snubs this year: First off L'Espalier For Service, Service far better than ES to say the least, they may have been overlooked following there nom for it last year. Second off Todd Maul at Clio, though i cannot say that he is better than jackson cannon he is certainly more cutting edge, and is really the only reason to go to clio now as the food has been slipping. Jason Bond for bondir, It is a big surprise that he didnt make the best northeast this year after being on the list last year and being the best chef in Cambridge. Young Chris Coombs of Deuxave should have been on the Rising Star list and probably best chef northeast too this year as he is arguably on of the best chefs in boston. Colin Lynch should have probably made it on to best chef northeast for menton after gaining relais & chateaux, but may be overshadowed by barbara. Also Westbridge just had a great year, i think that makes a better best new restaurant than puritain.
if you think that berkowitz does not run good restaurnts, then he does not deserve such attention; i am not a Legals fan.
as to dives, this is not michelllin where the top places need to have fresh flower on the tables. We are talking about cooking.
as a competitor for wines that Troquet buys, they are fantastic in wine service. Maybe Veritas in Manhattan is better. but never having been there, this is the best place for finding good wines at good prices that i have ever seen. .
I'm thrilled that ES got a nomination for their outstanding service. As far as I'm concerned, it is the best in the city. Among the things that make them amazing:
Without our asking, they remember allergies from visit to visit and always check our order (quietly behind the scenes) to make sure none of the dishes we've ordered contain allergens. The only reason we know they do that is that they have occasionally come back to notify us that an allergen is a non-listed ingredient in a dish. It's outstanding service in part because it doesn't make a fuss about itself.
The bartenders are extremely efficient and helpful in making sure patrons get seats at the bar in a truly first-come-first-served way. (Unlike too many bars where they say bar seating is "first come, first served" but it's actually "most aggressive, first served", forcing patrons to monitor where along a bar seats might be about to open up, then hover and snatch the chairs as they are being vacated in order to prevent people who arrived after them from swooping in just because the seats they happen to be standing closer to were the first to open up. We've given up on Russell House Tavern because the bartenders are completely unwilling to help, even when we tell them upon arrival that we're waiting for seats and they can see we've been waiting longer than a latecomer who pushes himself in.)
The ES bartenders remember our drink preferences from visit to visit. They even remember what we drank on specific occasions.
The comps in various forms...more because of the thoughtfulness than because its free. And sometimes when we're trying to decide between two things they'll surprise us gratis with the one we decided not to order.
Not the least, the staff is unfailingly warm, helpful and eager to oblige patrons' requests.
Really, I have no idea how ES's service could be better. It could certainly be more formal (as at l'Espalier) but that's an entirely different matter. I hope they win.
I agree about ES's outstanding service, actually one could include both Island Creek and The Hawthorne in this trinity of superb service, as the same philosophy is taught throughout all three places.
All in all, however, the only type of formal service I've had in Boston that was comparable to say, New York, or San Francisco, or Chicago, were at L'Espalier (the old location-haven't been to the new), and at Menton. My single best service surprise was at our one meal at Menton. I had the fioe gras torchon, which was a healthy portion, but came with two small pieces of brioche toast. I knew I would need another piece to finish the dish, but as I ate the last bite of my second piece of toast, someone was behind me, placing a third piece of toast on my plate. I never made any eye contact with my server, nor did I notice anyone watching closely enough to notice that small detail.
one other surprise to me- the Hawthorne got a best bar nod but not Drink.
I've not been to the Hawthorne (dying to, just an inconvenient trip for me transit wise), so the 'surprise' to me more is that drink did not get nominated as well- jbf awards seem to value places with long, well regarded credentials, which (it seems) Drink has.
If i remember correctly, bar award was new as of last year, and PDT was the first winner, so if anything i'd expect the bar category especially to slant a bit 'older' in terms of wanting to play catch up and make sure to cover bars that have been influential in years past.
this is all to say- its very cool to see hawthorne get a nod, though maybe too bad Drink did not get one as well?
All of the categories that include Boston-area nominees make me wonder: by what process is the list created and winnowed down at each step?
Though it could be said of any awards list, this one seems highly debatable, at least where I have standing to debate it, which isn't often. For instance, I haven't sampled the cooking of many of the restaurants and chefs cited outside of Greater Boston. A shame, but I just don't get to Vermont or Northern Maine as often as I'd like.
I haven't heard at all about a number of them. I get to the Bristol, RI area not too infrequently, and have never heard of Persimmon, which has been open for eight years.
So, who decides? And how? Has someone actually dined around the Northeast enough to reasonably make this call?
re: MC Slim JB
apparently, from their policies & procedures:
"anyone can submit a chef or restaurant for consideration during the online open call for entries in the fall. There is no entry fee.
The Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee produces a ballot with approximately 20 semifinalists in each category. This ballot is distributed online to a voting body of over 300 previous James Beard Restaurant & Chef Award winners; 250 panelists divided evenly among 10 regions (see below); and 17 members of the Restaurant and Chef Award subcommittee."
no mention i could find on whether and when you have to have eaten somewhere to vote, or if you can cast a vote without having eaten at all the relevant spots...
i know, for instance, in the san pellegrino list, you can only nominate a place you've eaten at in last year, which has a handicap on certain types of restos (ie small ones that might be hard to plan a trip around if you're not based in the city). would be interesting to know the rules, and actual breakup, here.
re: MC Slim JB
I spend a good bit of time in Maine and the Hudson Valley, so I'm somewhat familiar with a few of these places. I know of Damon Baehrel, but refuse to fork over the outrageous price tag for his restaurant. I have heard good things about his food, but not $245pp before drinks/tax/tip good. Mercato Osteria in Red Hook is a really solid osteria with farm to table leanings. I'm not sure what separates it from some of the better Italian options in Boston, though. I love Bresca up in Portland. It's a really wonderful dining experience every time.
re: MC Slim JB
Wow - I'm actually surprised to hear that you don't know Persimmon, especially since I know you know Bristol. While I haven't eaten there myself (it's a bit more fancier than what we normally do) and I no longer live in RI, I try to stay abreast of the RI restaurant scene. Persimmon has quite often appeared on peoples' short lists of East Bay must-try restaurants over the last several years. I've recommended it because other trusted RI hounds have given their seal of approval.
Don't mean to sound rude, but just because you haven't heard of a place, MC, doesn't mean it doesn't merit recognition.
What I don't know is wide and deep! I'm sure that place is terrific; my point is that my knowledge is pretty localized, as I expect it is for most Hounds, of necessity. It's hard to stay abreast of a whole region, even if you work hard at it, and I don't even really do that. Who among the JBA judges does?
My very abbreviated thoughts without giving it much thought:
- I'm thrilled that Oleana got some recognition
- Wasn't Joanne Chang nominated last year as a pastry chef for Flour? Does her work at Flour really warrant a best chef nomination? Mind you, this is coming from someone who thinks the roast beef and lamb sandwiches at Flour are two of the five best things to eat between bread in the city.
I think Flour for Best Chef: Northeast is a joke. I thought her pastry chef nomination was a stretch but certainly made more sense than this. I doubt she will be a finalist. I love the sandwiches, too, but that's just not the stuff that gets attention from these awards.
Overall, I'm struck by how few of the Best Chef: Northeast restaurants are in the Greater Boston area. I can't think of many others that are deserving, but it just seems a bit embarrassing given how large Boston is relative to other cities in the region.
I'm also surprised Lynch doesn't get a best restaurateur nomination. That, rather than chef, seems more like her strong suit these days.
I'm surprised Puritan got anything considering that it really just isn't that good.
I've been a fan of Gilson for a while, and quite like Puritan & Co., but agree that it seems kind of soon for him to be getting this level of recognition for that place. It opened in, what, early December? Not quite eleven weeks. Do they lump in consideration of his previous work?
It sort of supports what I've heard suggested before and seems confirmed by some past nominees: PR effort counts at least as much as merit in this race.
re: MC Slim JB
I think that industry awards of any stripe tend to be just as much (if not more) about PR than anything else, It's just the way the world works. The inclusion of someone like Berkowitz, whose restaurants have been mediocre for a dozen years but who knows how to play the marketing game, is pretty much just par for the course.