I am always interested in the James Beard Foundation's Best NYC Chef award, but this year's nominees present a particularly vexing set of issues for voters to sift through. All five are prodigiously talented, but in very different ways. My thoughts on each of these fine chefs, after the jump.
Michael Anthony of the Gramercy Tavern: He brings classical French technique to his ingredient-driven new American cuisine. Eating at the less formal, no reservations accepted front of the Tavern is one of my favorite places to eat lunch or dinner in New York. He's certainly no slouch in the fancier food department either. More on Anthony »
Wylie Dufresneof wd-50: No chef is more admired than Wylie Dufresne, who pushes the culinary envelope more than any other chef in New York. Yes, he's a molecular gastronomer, but he also knows what delicious is. More on Dufresne »
Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune: Everyone loves the food at Prune. Gabrielle's food is earthy, surprisingly classically derived, and seriously delicious—though her food is not as involved as her four rivals for this award. But I would venture that her extraordinarily high standards and her ability to entertainingly convey her often contrarian opinions catapulted her to her nomination. She's a very good cook and an even better writer and communicator. More on Hamilton »
Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park: Daniel's food is incredibly precise, elegant as hell, and extremely delicious. It's a little more fanciful than the food of his rivals, but Lord, he can cook for me any day. More on Humm »
Michael White: The prince of pasta chefs in NYC or probably the whole country for that matter. Interestingly, he's the only nominee here with more than one restaurant, and the only one serving resolutely Italian food. He understands traditional Italian food and cooking methods, and he uses that knowledge to create food that is both traditionally Italian and forward-looking or leaning. More on White's Marea, Alto, and Convivio »
Who's going to win? I have no idea. My guess is either Daniel Humm or Michael Anthony. Beard judges have always been particularly fond of Danny Meyer restaurants, with good reason. Wylie would certainly be a worthy recipient, but I think his food is too polarizing; and though I think Michael White will win this award eventually, I don't know if this is his year.