The Subjectivity of Praise
May 11, 2017
Tom Sietsema’s spring dining guide, an annual restaurant listing of the Washington Post, appeared when some of us at Bread Furst were still in Chicago for the awards of the James Beard Foundation.
Those honors are conferred in the first weekend of May each year in an extravaganza, a weekend of parties and restaurant dinners followed on Monday evening with a celebration in the beautiful art deco Civic Opera House.
These are supposed to be the Academy Awards of food and I suppose they are. Thirty-five hundred people in black tie and evening gown, a red carpet entrance for the nominees, a long, long ceremony and then generous, crowded “after parties.”
I skipped the red carpet. I had walked on it for the previous two years and felt uncomfortable about that fuss. Beside, it was raining and I didn’t want my bow tie to get wet.
The “outstanding baker” award is the first of the evening to be announced. The award was first given in 2015 and when it was given to me the other day I was of course happy but sharply aware of the subjectivity of it all.
After all, Dan Leader of Bread Alone, Steve Sullivan of Acme Bakery, Michael London of Mrs. London’s were bread bakers before I became one. None of them has been nominated.
Michel Suas, like me, nominated each year, has done more for American baking than any other person.
But it was I who won the award this time.
We returned from Chicago on the release date of Tom Sietsema’s spring dining guide, an annual listing of the Washington Post.
Tom offered two this time, one of old restaurants and another of new ones; and the lists reminded me of the award I had received the day before and about the capriciousness of such choices.
Some of my favorite restaurants were in the Post’s list – Mintwood Place, Oval Room, Charleston Obelisk, and others — but many other celebrated restaurants that he likes were not.
What happened to Corduroy? How about Woodberry Kitchen, Rasika, Pineapples and Pearls and Bad Saint (neither of which I have ever been to).
Tom Sietsema is my friend and I know that he likes those restaurants too but they were not in the dining guide because (I imagine) he wanted to make room for others like La Piquette and Perry’s that also deserve to be included. And not every restaurant can be listed.
And that’s my point.
There are now a lot of very good restaurants in Washington and there are now a lot of very good bakers in America. Selecting mean excluding and this year having been given the Beard award this time, I am the beneficiary of that.