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The 2010 Beard Awards Once Again Celebrate the Best in Culinary Arts

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While the Metropolitan Museum of Art's big Costume Institute Gala lands on the same night as the James Beard Awards this year, I prefer covering the Beard Awards any day. Held tonight, May 3, 2010, in Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, attendees not only get to bask in the presence of the award nominees, past winners and winners-to-be, but, at the reception afterwards, those present get to feast on dishes from the best of the best.

Now the Met Gala may offer a feast for the eyes -- be it the beautiful celebrities or the couture -- but the post-Beard Award ceremony reception offers something more physical, a sumptuous sampling of the culinary arts.

Founded in 1986, the James Beard Foundation celebrates and nurtures America's culinary heritage and diversity in order to enhance our appreciation as the legendary cookbook author and teacher did. With his encyclopedic knowledge about food, Beard, who died in 1985, championed American cuisine and mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Today, the Beard Foundation continues in the same spirit by administering a number of programs that include educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships to culinary schools, and publications. For a sweetener, they maintain the historic James Beard House in the Village as a "performance space" for visiting chefs.

Last year, not only were such gustatory stars as Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio and Drew Nieporent on hand to offer comestible wisdom and cheerful commentary but also to slap backs and trade congrats. Mucho celebs may be on hand at the Met but the truly tasteful folks, like Stanley Tucci, who was a main presenter last year, attend these awards.

[at left, Chef Daniel Boulud (pic--B. Balfour)]
The 2010 vintage of these awards encompass categories from best wine service to outstanding pastry chef and are not constrained by region. But local chauvinism being what it is, this list includes such local favorites as Locanda Verde chef/owner Andrew Carmellini, Marea NYC chef/partners Michael White and Chris Cannon and mainstays as Tom Colicchio (Craft) and Babbo Chef/Owner Mario Batali and Daniel chef/owner Daniel Boulud.

This year's presenters include award-winning chef/restaurateur Public Television host Lidia Bastianich, Food Network star Alton Brown and JBF award-winning chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, some of whom are also nominees.

So look out for the posting of this year's award-winners. Take a tour of their palate-seducing dishes at their fabulous watering holes. That should provide a year's worthy of pleasing consumption to last til next year's nominees are posted.

And meanwhile, I can salivate over the thought of consuming dishes from such chefs as Jonathan Benno, Curtis Duffy, and Cedric Vongerichten during the post-awards gala. Yum.