Martin Scorsese finally won his Oscar in February. Is 2007 the year Michel Richard will win his culinary "Oscar" from the James Beard Foundation? The twinkle-eyed Frenchman, who helms the Cal-French Citronelle in Georgetown and who just opened a new bistro, Central, in downtown DC, has been tapped in two categories. He's up for the highly coveted Outstanding Chef award–one of the night's biggest honors–and his cookbook Happy In the Kitchen (co-authored with Peter Kaminsky and Susie Heller), published this past winter, is a contender for the Cooking From a Professional Point of View book award.
Nominations were announced today at noon. Another Citronelle personality, wine director Mark Slater, is nominated for the Outstanding Wine Service award. Richard certainly hasn't been a bridesmaid as many times as film director Scorsese — he was nominated for James Beard Chef of the Year in 1996 and Outstanding Chef in 2006. And he has collected plenty of other honors and awards, such as Citronelle being named to Gourmet magazine's Top 20 restaurants in the country in 2001 and 2006. But for the boy who started his career at 14 as a pastry chef with Gaston Lenotre in Paris and who has been cooking in the U.S. for 32 years — at his own patisserie in Santa Fe, at Los Angeles' acclaimed Citrus, and for the past 13 years at Citronelle — victory would be sweet.
The area also scored big this year in nominations for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic — three of the five nominees are from local restaurants. They are the energetic Irishman Cathal Armstrong, chef-owner of Restaurant Eve, a daring New American eatery in Old Town; RJ Cooper, chef de cuisine at Jeff Buben's Southern charmer Vidalia; and Frank Ruta, chef-owner of the intensely personal Palena in Cleveland Park.
Wine retailer Terry Theise, of Terry Theise Estate Selections in Silver Spring, has also been nominated — for the Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional award presented by Southern Wine & Spirits.
And one of this year's inductees into the James Beard Foundation Who's Who of Food & Beverage–a group comprised of people who "have been influential in shaping American gastronomy"–is Jose Andres, the Spanish small plates wiz behind Jaleo, Zaytinya, and minibar (among others) who won the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award in 2003. Also in the society? Local cookbook authors Joan Nathan and Marian Burros, former Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman, the Inn at Little Washington chef-owner Patrick O'Connell, and yes, Michel Richard.
The 2007 James Beard awards will be held May 6 and 7 in New York City. Click here for a list of all the nominees.