My Thoughts On A Wonderful Night At The 2011 James Beard Awards

Monday night at the James Beard Awards was a great night. One of the best moments at the awards was seeing Noriega Restaurant and Hotel from Bakersfield, California take home a award for America's Classics Awards. The award goes to restaurants that have been in existence at least 10 years and be locally owned. New York's Le Veau d'Or, a bastion of French cuisine in the city, received an award as well. Another fun moment was the tie between Thai chef Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas and Tyson Cole of Uchi in Austin, Texas. Both received awards for Best Chef: Southeast.

Great to see Charles Phan from The Slanted Door in San Fransisco and Frank Stitt from Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama inducted to Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America.

I was rooting for Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone of Torrisi Italian Specialties for Best Restaurant because I used to work with Rich, but ABC Kitchen's award was well deserved.

Best Chef: Pacific was a very competitive region this year. Michael Tusk from Quince in San Francisco took the prize over Christopher Kostow from The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, California, showing just how competitive of a year it was.

Best dressed? That had to be Lee Jones, Farmer and Owner from Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio. He was dressed in a bowtie and blue jean overalls.

One of the most moving moments was when Gabrielle Hamilton received the award for Best Chef: New York City. The cheer was incredible loud throughout Avery Fisher Hall for this incredible woman who's now getting her dues.

Best shoes goes to Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon. It was an honor presenting Best Rising Chef to him, which brought me back to 1999, when I received the same award. All the best to him and congrats to all the nominees and everyone who took home a James Beard Award this year!!