A Swell Party: The Bon Appetit Awards Dinner

Joe Bastianich, who wasn’t in my line of sight, but whose wines we all enjoyed, and Lidia Bastianich, the Italian mama we all wish we had

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seen here with legendary editor, Judith Jones, the woman responsible for the publication of, among hundreds of other books, Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl (she is the one who, as a very young woman working in Paris, found the manuscript in the slush pile and championed its publication) and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (and almost all of Julia’s other books), and who has now written her own story, The Tenth Muse.

The event is relatively small because the guest list is pretty much confined to past and present award winners, Bon Appetit staff and contributors (which is how I got my precious invitation) and friends of the Bon Ap family, which means great chefs, restaurateurs, artisan producers, trendsetters and designers.  I can’t believe I was lucky enough to be seated with Eva Zeisel, who, at 100, just designed two new lines of dishes from scratch

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Eva Zeisel, who was the recipient of last year’s Bon Appetit Lifetime Achievement Award, is seated to the left, her daughter, the actress and childrens’ book author, Jean Richards, is next to her, and Barbara Fairchild, Bon Appetit’s Editor-in-Chief, is standing.

The invitation read: 6:30 Reception, 7:30 Dinner and Awards Presentation, but it was well past 7:30 when we sat down – people were having way too much fun chatting and catching up with one another to pay attention to the staff gently and probably way too softly imploring us to be seated.  I mean, how would like to be the one to tell Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue’s Food Critic and The Man Who Ate Everything, he had to put down his reverse vitello tonnato and take his seat?

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Or break up the conversation of (from left to right)

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Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin and Bon Appetit’s 2005 Chef of Merit, Dan Barber, chef of New York’s Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns and this year’s Chef of Merit (who gave an acceptance speech that was so funny I thought the talent scouts from late-night tv would grab him on the spot) and Joel Robuchon, who, in addition to being Bon Appetit 2006 Chef of the Year and chef of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris, New York and Las Vegas, is the man most great French chefs consider the greatest chef.  Actually, it’s not just the great chefs who idolize him, Americans are pretty crazy about him too, which explains why, when M. Robuchon was leaving and gave me the traditionally French set of kisses, a woman passing by said, “You’re never going to wash your face, are you?”  (Well, maybe not those two spots.)

While the awards are very serious, the presentation was pretty lighthearted, which is just what you want and just what you’d expect from our host, Ted Allen, the food guru from Queer Eye, who now hosts the PBS series, Uncorked: Wine Made Simple

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He’s seen here with Peter Elliot (left) of Bloomberg, who looks like his separated-at-birth brother.

And the evening’s winners were:

Chef of the Year:  David Chang of New York’s Momofuku and Momofuku Ssam Bar

Cooking Teacher:  Molly Stevens, author, most recently of All About Braising

Chef of Merit:  Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Pastry Chef:  Kamel Guechida of Joel Robuchon’s restaurants in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas

Wine and Spirits Professional:  Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club in New York City

Designer:  Kelly Wearstler, designer of, among many other places, Whist, the restaurant in the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica

Food Artisans:  Herb and Kathy Eckhouse, whose company, La Quercia produces extraordinary cured meats

Tastemaker:  Target Stores

Restaurateur:  Laurent Tourondel, whose BLT (Bistro Laurent Tourondel) restaurants in New York have become a not-so-mini empire

Food Writer:  Barbara Kinsolver for her wonderful book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about a year of eating locally

Humanitarian:  Father Gregory J. Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles and helped thousands of gangmembers become bakers, chefs and caterers

Lifetime Achievement:  Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw, founders of Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a great online resource for all things delicious

Dorie Greenspan

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