Lincoln Center was buzzing with energy and excitement at the James Beard Awards as chefs from around the world replaced white coats and checked pants with black bow ties, tuxedos and gowns.
Christina Tosi, winner of the Rising Star Chef award and the only pastry chef in her category, described getting ready and the transition from working in a kitchen to attending the star-studded event Monday.
“You’re like, ‘I don’t even know if I remember how to put on eyeliner.’ There was this one tube of lipstick going around the kitchen, everyone’s like ‘I don’t know, I’m not ready!’ but it’s nice to get dressed up.”
After getting ready, Tosi and the entire Momofuku restaurant clan began their annual tradition.
“We get picked up in a party bus, around 3 we have barbecue, then we go to the awards and go to a series of parties,” she said.
Tosi got to the awards and won her first James Beard award for Rising Star Chef, a category dominated by savory chefs.
“I’m just in shock,” she said after receiving her award, thanking her sous chef. ”For so many reasons I didn’t think that I would win, there’s such a wealth of talent here.”
Lincoln Center was packed with former James Beard winners such as David Chang and Angela Pinkerton as well as Sam Kass, chef at the white house.
Other nominees mingled at the event, including New York’s Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, who later won the award for Best Chef: New York and Matt Molina, who won for Best Chef: Pacific for his work at Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza.
Dan Barber, James Beard winner, chef and mentor, congratulated Best Chef: Midwest and chef of L’Etoile, Tory Miller.
“I’m really psyched for Tory (Miller), and Mike Anthony but Tory- I’ve known him for years and I think he’s doing great stuff out there and it’s nice when this kind of stuff you get to do.”
“I think those guys are great and they’ve worked so long and so hard and I’m psyched that Wisconsin gets on the map,” he said, “I’m into cheese curds, too.”
Not every hardworking chef was able to take home an award and Tosi recognized the others in her category.
“I have a huge affinity for Danny Bowien, from Mission Chinese in San Francisco. I feel like his passion towards what he does and his vision of bringing Chinese cuisine forward in this way- so clever and creative and playful and he’s so passionate about it- and looking at something old and creating something new. I just somehow relate to that in terms of what we do in a kitchen, in a totally sweet world but just in that same sort of way.”
Tosi has another cookbook idea in the works.
“We’ve been talking about wanting to write another cookbook…There’s so much more food that travels out of Milk Bar that isn’t just the compost cookie and the cereal milk and we’ve been talking about doing something that highlights that.”
“The tricky thing is you can’t take certain things off the menu so it’s sort of about finding clever ways to create new things without upsetting the cereal milk fans or the crack pie fans,” she said.
Here are a few of the top awards from the night:
Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NYC)
Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard (San Francisco)
Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC)
Best New Restaurant: Next (Chicago)