who was running around in his trademark shorts and sneakers,welcoming everyone to his home and generously doling out bear hugs

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

Lydia_and_judith_jones

seen here with the legendary American 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“>Mastering the Art of French Cooking (and almost all of Julia’s books thereafter), and who has know written her own story, The Tenth Muse.

Because the event is relatively small and the guest list confined to past and present winners, Bon Appetit staff and contributors (which is how I got my invitation) and friends of the Bon Ap family, which means great chefs, restaurateurs, artisan producers, style 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

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 seated next to her and Barbara Fairchild, Bon Appetit’s editor-in-chief, is standing

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

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

Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin and Bon Appetit’s 2005 Chef of Merit, Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns and this year’s BA 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 the Bon Appetit 2006 Chef of the Year and chef of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in New York and Las Vegas, is the man most great chefs in France consider the country’s greatest chef.  Actually, it’s not just he great French chefs who idolize him – Americans are pretty crazy about him too, which explains why, when M. Robuchon was leaving and bent over to give me the traditionally French set of kisses, a woman passing by said to me, “You’re never going to wash your face, are you?”  (Well, maybe not those two little 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 know hosts the PBS series, Uncorked: Wine Made Simple

Seen here with Peter Elliot of Bloomberg, who looks like his separated-at-birth twin.

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: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking

Chef of Merit:  Dan Barber of

New York

‘s Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Pastry Chef:  Kamel Guechida of Joel Robuchon’s restaurants at 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 Tourondol) restaurants in

New York

have become a not-so-mini empire

Food writer:  Barbara Kingsolver for her wonderful new 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.

And, in between the cheers, clapping and wonderful camaraderie, there was wine and food – a truly memorable meal from Mario Batali:

Anitpasto

Insalata Salumi Misti

Tocai Friuliano, Bastianich 2005

Primi

Potato Gnocchi al Pomodoro with Basil Pesto

Rosato Bastianich 2005

Followed by

Hand-made Orecchiette with Lamb Neck Sausage (a wow!)

Vespa Bianco, Bastianich 2004

Secondo

New York

Strip Steak with Summer Bean Salad and Crispy Brasato

Morellino di Scansano, La Mozza, 2005

Dolce

Crostata di Mele with Almond Cream and Pancetta Streusel (another wow from pastry chef Nicole Kaplan)

Dindarello, Maculan 2006

Biscotti Assortiti

Dorie Greenspan