Yesterday the James Beard Foundation announced its short list of nominees live from Las Vegas at the former home of Dos Caminos at the Palazzo. And while no Vegas restaurants made it to the final round, the food critics are offering their opinions on the matter.
“Privately, however, the members of the local restaurant scene and food press corps were trying hard not to be bitter about what some saw as a slap in the face to our town,” food critic Al Mancini wrote. “Nobody in town wants to sound like we feel entitled, but Vegas is almost universally seen as one of America’s top food cities. So being completely overlooked makes you wonder whether the Foundation was trying to make some kind of big stand by seeking out more obscure talent elsewhere. OK, that’s fair enough (although they clearly had no problem nominating jillions of New York City restaurants), but if you’re going to do that, why come to Vegas to make the announcements?”
He chatted with Susan Ungaro, JBF president, after the soiree was over.
“Of course being here in the wonderful city of Las Vegas, I have to admit I wish there had been some representation this year. But they were on the ‘long list,’ which is why we actually publish that long list of semi-finalists to really show that there are so many great chefs and restaurants and wine service individuals out there.”
Food critic John Curtas shed some insider’s knowledge on just how the restaurants are selected and when the JBF finds out the results since he is one of the voters. He heard from “a number of notable people in the press and restaurant worlds” who expressed their disappointment and bitterness about the results.
He says the plethora of celebrity chefs who parachute into Vegas a few days out of the year make it harder for the chefs who live here in Vegas to gain a foothold with the voters.
“But make no mistake about it, it’s still a popularity contest. And because so much of it comes down to how much publicity a given chef or restaurant gets in a given year, and because so many of the 400+ voting panel comes from the Northeast, Las Vegas will always have its work cut out for it to get the recognition it deserves.”
Curtas says he talked to Ungaro and JBF vice president Mitchell Davis, who listened. End result? “The reality check we gave them was, unfortunately, until Vegas sees more love from the JBF awards, getting more Las Vegas dollars flowing into their scholarship coffers will be difficult.”
Most interestingly, the paper of record for the state of Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had no coverage of the James Beard Foundation in Vegas.
· James Beard Shows No Love to Vegas Restaurants [AlMancini.net]
· A Few Thoughts on the James Beard Awards [ELV]
· 2012 James Beard Finalists Include Mina, Lagasse, Brombergs, Selvaggio [LVS]
· James Beard Award Nominees Announced Live in Vegas [LVW]
· Las Vegas Shut Out from JBF Award Nominations [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of the James Beard Foundation [~ELV~]