One day, you’re an unemployed cook with a resume in hand, standing downtown in Seattle under a neon sign with a dangling fish, praying some guy named Tom Douglas will give you a job. Next thing you know, you’re standing on stage in New York City accepting a James Beard Award, tripping the light fantastic among adoring fans and a jury of your peers — the nation’s most celebrated chefs among them. Then, shaking in your shoes, you thank your family, your friends and your exceedingly hard-working staff. And next, you walk off that broad stage to drink Champagne wearing a much-coveted piece of “jewelry”:
OK, so maybe there’s a lot of hard work between the then and that, but you get the picture. (Actually, I got the picture — and yes, Holly Smith had plenty of reason to celebrate last spring when she was named “Best Chef: Northwest.”)
So, how does a chef find their way from nominee to winner? Well, that’s where you come in. The James Beard Foundation has sent out a Zagatian call for opinionated diners, opining:
“Participating in the James Beard Foundation Awards process has never been easier. Tell us your name, e-mail address, and state of residence, then submit your suggestions for nominees in up to 19 categories, ranging from Best New Restaurant to Rising Star Chef of the Year.”
You can render your suggestions (note: this isn’t actually a vote my friends, it’s a call for entries) online right here. And if you’re wondering how the extensive voting process works, you may read all about it here.
Deadline for entry is December 1 at 11:59 p.m. and finalists will be announced on March 23. Winners will get the happy news May 4 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City where I intend to be there to cheer them on.