Food Industry

Handicapping the James Beard Awards

Consider it March Madness for gastronomic geeks: This Monday, March 22 the esteemed semifinalist nominees for the James Beard Awards 2010 will be whittled down to the even more esteemed finalists. In the combined spirit of great cooking and great bookies, we are offering the betting odds for who will make the cut in the South category (Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana).

Note: This is meant to be in humor and in no way are we encouraging gambling on the Beard award nominees, as this is illegal. If you should wager and lose money using our odds, we at Short Order are not responsible. On the other hand, if you should ignore this warning and, say, put down a whole lot of money on a long shot and win a bundle, it seems only fair you should send some of that payday our way.

Best Chef
Michael Schwartz, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami
Schwartz is a hot national property right now, and his Genuine restaurant serves the sort of new American farm-to-plate food that Beardies love. Miami is also the most ascendant food city in the country at the moment, so at least one of our three entries will surely be a finalist.

Philippe Ruiz, Palme d'Or at the Biltmore, Coral Gables
If these were the Jacques Beardois Awards, Ruiz would be given a sure ticket to the next round. Palme d'Or boasts the professional service, classy Old World ambiance, weighty wine list, and sophisticated yet contemporary New French cuisine that Michelin and its ilk adore. And Ruiz has the training, background, and general chef bona fides that others in this category lack. Michael's gets the better odds because it is more in tune with the current American dining scene, but we think they'll both advance.

Kris Wessel, Red Light Little River, Miami
Wessel has to be considered the dark horse among our three local contenders if only because Red Light's location and set-up might seem too contradictory with Beard's aura of prestigiousness. On the other hand, Wessel puts out a similar type of Beard-friendly fare as Michael's, doing so under much more restricting kitchen conditions as any other chef. And everyone loves an underdog.

Zach Bell, Cafe Boulud at the Brazilian Court, Palm Beach
Dean James Max, 3030 Ocean at Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale

Both great chefs, but at most one will make the final round -- Broward/Palm Beach isn't sexy enough for two finalists. Flip of the coin over who it will be.

Jose Martinez, Maison Blanche, Longboat Key
Jeanie Roland, The Perfect Caper, Punta Gorda

Jeanie has a shot because it won't look good if no woman makes the finals. And Jose because his restaurant's moniker possesses gravitas, plus if the Beard voters have to actually go and eat at these restaurants, Longboat Key sounds like a nicer place to visit than, say, Orlando (or, God forbid, Arkansas).
Tom Gray, Bistro Aix, Jacksonville
Odds would be better except judges may hesitate due to the word "Aix" being potentially prone to mispronunciation at the awards ceremony.

Kevin F. Fonzo, K Restaurant Wine Bar, Orlando
Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Orlando
Philip Krajeck, Fish Out of Water at Water Color Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach

A wine bar, a Disney property, and a restaurant in a place called Water Color Inn? I don't think so.

Keep going for Best New Restaurant, Rising Star Chef, Outstanding Pastry Chef, and Outstanding Restauranteur...

Best New Restaurant:

Eos at Viceroy, Miami


Michael Psilakis is well known and respected among Beard voters via his

New York restaurants, and it might be easier for them to offer him due

acknowledgment in the South conference rather than in the very

competitive New York conference. Plus Eos is surely deserving of at

least a spot in the finals.

Solea at the W South Beach, Miami Beach


The false start and early switch of chefs could hurt. Still, Vidal is

damn good, and the restaurant is is hitting its peak at the right time.

A Mano, New Orleans


We all know what New Orleans went through, and we all root for the city

and wish good things for it. But it just won the Super Bowl. That's

good enough.

Rising Star Chef of the Year:

Sam Gorenstein, BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel, Miami Beach


The currency of BLT and Miami Beach are both trading high right now --

and Sam is the only Florida chef in this category. Plus Gorenstein has

the chops to deservedly make the cut.

Joshua Smith, A Mano, New Orleans, LA

Sue Zemanick, Gautreau's, New Orleans, LA


Who dat?

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Beth Biundo, Lilette, New Orleans, LA


The unconscious part of the brain is powerful, and the way Lilette rolls off the tongue suggests great pastries. Beth is in.

Hedy Goldsmith, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami


Will Beard voters decide that this is Michael's Genuine's year? Or will

those who vote to put either Michael or Hedy in the finals think that

putting both in is too much? It bodes well that Bigelow/Hurt Locker won

best director and best picture -- could suggest this is the year of the

sweep. We'd bet that Hedy will make it, but only because we know first

hand just how good her desserts are.

Outstanding Restauranteur

Myles Chefetz, Myles Restaurant Group, Miami Beach


Myles could make the finals just on the strength of Prime One Twelve,

which is one of the most successful independent restaurants in the

country. Add the also-profitable Prime Italian, Big Pink, Nemo, and

Shoji Sushi, and dwell on the diversity of those five establishments,

and, well, the man is a shoo-in.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein