Among the highlights of the evening, chef Charlie Trotter, owner of Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, was named "Outstanding Chef" for his contributions as an industry standard bearer of excellence. His restaurant holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award of Excellence for its wine list. The Rising Star Chef of the Year was Marcus Samuelsson, 28, who has been cooking at New York's Aquavit for the past five years. The Beard Foundation presents this award to a chef who is 30 years old or younger. "I'm so proud of the whole team. They worked very hard for this," said Samuelsson after the event. "Being recognized by your peers is one of the most important things. And I'm Swedish, so this goes beyond the restaurant -- this goes out to Sweden."
The Four Seasons in New York walked off with the Outstanding Restaurant award, while Le Bernardin earned top honors for Outstanding Service. Union Square Cafe and its wine director, Karen King, won the Outstanding Wine Service award. Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich, owners of New York dining-scene newcomer Babbo, saw their venture take Best New Restaurant of 1998. Adding a familial twist to the evening, Lidia Bastianich -- Joseph's mother and the chef at Felidia Ristorante -- took the award for Best Chef in New York. (For complete listings of regional awards and other categories, go to www.jamesbeard.org.)
After the awards ceremony, the 1,600 guests enjoyed a menu prepared by 28 "Rising Star Chefs of the 21st Century," led by executive chef Sarah Stegner of The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. Throughout his life, Beard served as a mentor to emerging talents. Today, the James Beard Foundation continues his work by providing scholarships and educational opportunities to culinary artists and serving as a resource to the industry.
For past reports on the Beard Awards: