As promised earlier today, here's some more on our experience in NYC last week for the Beard Awards: First of all, it was seriously hot and humid and my tux pants kept sliding down (Susan said it wasn't as bad when a woman's pantyhose slip and that I should now be more sympathetic). The event was held at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center and I think there were about 3,000 people in attendence. The theme of the evening was artisanship and many of the honorees were involved in organics or some other wholesome farm to table aspect of the culinary continuum. The first awards were given in the chef categories and it was fun to see some of the superstars we usually only read about. The emcees were Kim Cattrall of "Sex in the City" and Bobby Flay. Of course, there were the usual double entendres until they finally ran out of them but, overall, I thought Kim and Bobby did a great job keeping things moving.
Finally, they got around to the book awards (it was pretty obvious that the book awards were like the supporting actors to the main stars, the chefs and restaurateurs but, hey, who's complaining? Our category, Baking and Desserts, was one of the early ones so we weren't held in suspense for too long. When they called my name as the winner I gave Susan a big kiss and walked the long walk to the stage (we sat in the back section of the theater, like all good cook book authors should). My pants kept sliding down and I kept hitching them up. I had written a list of people to thank, just in case, because I knew I'd go blank without it. But, after Ted Allen placed the James Beard medallion and ribbon over my head and I started to read the list, I felt my hands shake and my voice quiver. There was a giant screen behind us, so I knew my every quiver was being magnified dramatically, which only made me shake more. I thought I'd be kind of used to it all, having been up there three previous times, but it was just as if it were the first. It never gets old, never gets easy.
Afterwards, people told me my acceptance speech was good. I began by saying how, on the first day of class, I challenge my baking students to evoke the full potential of flavor from the grain, and that a publisher's job is to evoke the full potential of flavor from the writer. I thought it was a pretty clever way to get things started but that's when I made the mistake of looking at my list of people to thank. The big lesson for me is to forget lists and just speak to one person in the audience. I hope I get another chance to try this one day. Anyway, they led me down some backstage stairs to a room full of press and James Beard officials, where they gave me a glass of bubbly, took my photo wearing the medal and holding the glass, and then I got to wend my way through the corridors and get back to my seat. Susan was waiting with another kiss and we watched the rest of the awards, breathing at last.
It was a big night for my publisher, Ten Speed Press, as two other of their books also won: James Peterson's "Cooking" and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "The River Cottage Meat Book." Let's face it, how could anyone not vote for someone named Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall? In fact, they couldn't, as it was the winner not only of its own category but also as Book of the Year. Lorena Jones, the wonderful publisher at Ten Speed, accepted the award for Hugh who was probably back in the UK breaking down carcasses. Really-- I have the book in front of me as I write these words--if you have any interest in meat, you must get this book--it's amazing!
After the awards we went into the lobby where about 30 of America's top chefs were serving bite size tastes of their food to the 3,000 attendees. It was wall to wall people--way too crowded to get to much of the food but a great place to hug, network, and receive congratulatory handshakes. It was also still so hot that my pants kept slipping down and my shirt kept coming out. While trying to tuck it in the Beard medal came off the ribbon and clanged on the floor, putting a nice little ding in it. Susan and I went backstage to see if any stagehands could help us fix it (the little rings that connect the medal to the ribbon had separated). We actually found someone with pliers and he put it back together. By then, we decided it was pointless to try to get at the food, so Susan and I went across the street to a very nice restaurant called Fiorello's where we celebrated with Caesar Salad and mojitos. Susan had earlier suggested that we go to Grammercy Tavern, it had been chosen as restaurant of the year. But, I thought it was too late to take a cab there just to discover that it was closed, but the next day I read on the James Beard blog that they did, indeed, host an impromptu party. Darn!
When we got back to the hotel my shirt was drenched, my pants were still sliding down, and I couldn't wait to get out of them. But I wore my medal until I got into bed. Susan wrapped it up and packed it away for safe keeping. It will soon be in a frame, on the wall in our den, next to the others. Onward....