José Andrés Wins a James Beard Award

Washington didn't have a great showing at last night's James Beard Awards, but we did take home the most coveted prize.

Watermelon "air," a dish at Minibar; José Andrés. Photographs courtesy of ThinkFoodGroup.

It was starting to look a little bleak for Washington at the James Beard Awards—otherwise known as the foodie Oscars—last night. Three local chefs—Komi’s Johnny Monis, Restaurant Eve’s Cathal Armstrong, and Obelisk’s Peter Pastan—had been passed over for the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award (it went to Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav). But then it came time for the last award of the night: Outstanding Chef (think of it as the prestige equivalent of Best Actor), and our city finally got some love: Spanish chef José Andrés took the yellow-ribboned medal for his six-seat restaurant Minibar in DC’s Penn Quarter.

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Andrés jumped on stage, giving presenter Tom Colicchio a robust kiss on the cheek. Then he took the podium and started to choke up: “Man, I thought I was not going to get serious,” he said. Andrés thanked his wife, Patricia, and apologized for not mentioning her in the speech for his first Beard award back in 2003; restaurateur Rob Wilder; Ferran Adria (“This goes to you.”); and the late senator Patrick Moynihan, who was a regular at Jaleo and told Andrés soon after he'd immigrated here that “America loves people who work hard.” He then took to Twitter (“im ssssssooooo happy! thanks to all”), and pal Anthony Bourdain, who has been fiercely critical of the Beard Awards of late, put aside his ire and sent Andrés props for his “beautiful speech.”

Andrés spent the rest of the night with his wife, the head chefs and general managers of his restaurants in DC and Los Angeles, White House chef Sam Kass, and MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe, who co-wrote Andrés’s cookbook, and hit after parties thrown by Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud.

Other highlights: Washington Post writer Tim Carman took home a journalism award for his past columns at the City Paper, 60 Minutes won one for Anderson Cooper's segment on Andrés, and Top Chef: Season 7, filmed in DC (and tepidly reviewed), got the prize for Television Program in a Fixed Location. Local writer Carol Blymire tweeted throughout the night about meeting David Chang ("he didn't tell me to eff off"), celery cocktails in the press room, and posing with the medal awarded to Per Se for Outstanding Service. And perhaps best of all is this tweet, showing how Restaurant Eve co-owner Meshelle Armstrong feels about husband Cathal’s loss.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.