James Beard Semifinalists
I'm not sure what the general Chowhound take on the James Beard Foundation awards is, but they just released the list 2014 Semifinalists. I'm interested in people's thoughts on the the Boston Restaurants being considered for national awards:
Asta for Best New Restaurant
The Hawthorne for Outstanding Bar Program
Ana Sortun, Oleana for Outstanding Chef
Maura Kilpatrick, Oleana for Outstanding Pastry Chef
Hamersley’s Bistro for Outstanding Restaurant
Barbara Lynch, Barbara Lynch Gruppo for Outstanding Restauranteur
L'Espalier for Outstanding Service
Troquet for Outstanding Wine Service
Tim Maslow, Ribelle for Rising Chef Star of the Year
It's important to remember that this is very PR driven. I like Flour more than most, and even I think it's comical that Joanne Chang was a finalist last year and is nominated again this year. Flour is a bakery that serves really good sandwiches. That doesn't rise to the level of Best Chef Northeast.
Not national, but there's also the candidates for Best Chef: Northeast, which includes all of New England and New York state outside of NYC:
Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery + Cafe, Boston
Michael Leviton, Lumière, Newton, MA
Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA
Generally a defensible list except, imo, outstanding pasty chef (I'm in the minority here with regard to this I suspect). I think Ribelle and Asta would be my choices for best new Boston area restaurants, and I'm a long time fan of Hamersley's and L'Espalier and have great respect for Troquet's wine list. The Hawthorne is a fine bar. So while these things may be PR driven, your list seems defensible to me. However, when you add Joanne Chang as a candidate for best chef, the list begins to look risible.
Historically, James Beard Foundation awards (in my opinion) have been head-scratchingly anachronistic nods to now-fading restaurants—as though the foundation accidentally picked up 15-year-old issues of a city magazine to figure out What's Good Now.
I am all for heralding the true stalwarts, and the first one to push back, often not so gently, against the culture of Fetishizing the New in which I toil every day (the glossy-mag world). But the semifinalist lists going back at least ten years have been eye-rollingly laughable. A nutso, distorted snapshot of diningscape relevance.
Grumble, grumble, grumble. OK, fine. They nailed a few of the choices on this particular list. Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.
I'm gonna go take my meds now.
re: Jolyon Helterman
I think at the national level they certainly only look at restaurants that are "well established" The Best Chef Northeast award gives nods to new intrenched chefs. If you check out that list it might read a little better to you.