Women made their mark on the male dominated restaurant industry at the glitzy 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards, winning at least five categories, including best New York City chef. Meanwhile, New York – which had fewer nominations than usual – pulled in wins in two big categories: Danny Meyer’s Eleven Madison Park won outstanding restaurant award and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen snagged best new restaurant. Jose Andres, owner of the Washington D.C.-based minibar, came out tops in the outstanding chef category and Richard Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago won outstanding restaurateur.
Dan Kluger, chef at ABC kitchen, said he was stunned to win. “We set out to create a restaurant with great food,” he said. “A big part of this is recognizing the staff’s work. I’m sure it helps business, too, without a doubt.” Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and owner of Prune, a tiny East Village sensation, took the best New York City chef award, beating out heavyweights such as Michael White of Marea and Wylie Dufresne of wd-50. Hamilton, who has been on book tour for her best-selling memoir, said she was “totally surprised” to have won the honor. “1997, I think, was the last time a women won… and I don’t think anything outside of the fine dining category has ever won,” she said.
Other female winners included Belinda Chang of Danny Meyer’s Modern for outstanding wine service, Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C. for best chef in the Southeast, Saipin Chutima of Lotus Siam in Las Vegas for best chef Southwest and Angela Pinkerton of Eleven Madison Park in New York City for outstanding pastry chef. Chang, who has been the wine director at the Modern, adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art, was overwhelmed. “It’s like the greatest thing ever to win an award for pouring glasses of wine for people,” said Chang. Chang said she planned on celebrating Monday night with a bunch of 12 liter bottles the restaurant had been chilling in hopes of a win. “We couldn’t remember the last women wine director that won,” said Chang. ‘I feel pretty awesome to represent all the cool girls in wine. I’m pretty stoked.”