Food Writer's Diary
All quiet as the Beard Awards stay in Chicago

All quiet as the Beard Awards stay in Chicago

 So the Beard Awards are going to stay in Chicago for awhile.

More specifically, the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony and Gala, which is what most people mean when they say “the Beard Awards,” is going to stay in Chicago. The foundation announced today that the annual chefs’ party, the best opportunity to see many famous chefs all together in formal wear, is going to stay at the Lyric Opera of Chicago — where it will be held this year on Monday, May 4 — at least through 2017.

The other Beard Awards — the James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards Dinner — will stay in New York, where they have been since they were first held in 1991. 

I was going to put together a little story collecting comments from social media about it, but I didn't find much. 

My friend Steve Dolinsky, who I first met in New York sometime around the turn of the century during Beard Awards weekend, noticed the continued separation of the awards, and appeared to rue it: 

I asked my Facebook friends, most of whom are in the restaurant industry somehow, what they thought, and they didn't have much to see. I got two comments.

“Meh,” one said.

The other said she was waiting to see what they were like this year in Chicago.

I asked my Twitter followers, and got one response, asking a perfectly good question:

Why indeed. It might seem like a small thing, but award-winning chefs do write cookbooks that get nominated for Beard Awards.

The complaints that weren’t voiced today, but that I’ve heard in recent months here in New York, is that the food journalists who get nominated for Beard Awards are generally friendly with the sorts of chefs who get nominated for the Beard Awards (not really a coincidence: many food journalists, including myself, are judges for the Restaurant and Chef Awards). The media awards are normally on Friday, and the chef and restaurant awards are on Monday, leaving a weekend for chefs and journalists to spend the weekend frolicking in New York. As much as anything else, the Beard Awards are about bonding (or networking, depending on how you want to look at it). They’re a feel-good event about celebrating food, drink and restaurants, and they’re a lot of fun.

I’ll be missing them this year, as will many New York food writers. The names of the winners will likely be live-tweeted anyway, and the full roster will arrive in our e-mail boxes on Tuesday morning at the latest. The value of the color that we can add to our reporting by attending the awards just isn’t worth the expense, which in my case would suddenly rise from a couple of small taxi fares to after-parties and dry cleaning for my tuxedo to a flight and hotel stay.

As for the move of venue from New York to Chicago, I’ve heard few complaints, even here in New York. There’s plenty to do here in Gotham already, and I haven't heard anyone deny that Chicago is a great restaurant city and a good choice for the awards.

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