Northside’s culinary celeb-studded Tasty Awards is in excellent company this year. Instead of going it alone at the end of the month, the ceremony is setting the stage on Friday September 8th, kicking off three days’ worth of symposiums, workshops and all-star barbecuing at Taste Talks. The awards ceremony will honor the people, restaurants and organizations that are determining where, what, how and why we eat.
Headlined by none other than beloved Canadian chef and Dead Set on Life host, Matty Matheson, you can expect a great night complete with comedy breaks, DJ sets, dynamic food demos and more.
Of course, there will be ample opportunity for stargazing. While all nominations were submitted by the public, an elite academy was tasked with electing the actual winners; keep your eyes peeled for appearances by April Bloomfield, Dominique Ansel, Amanda Hesser and QuestLove. And then there are the honorees themselves, sorted under Restaurant & Chef, Media, and Innovation categories: will Herbsaint’s Rebecca Whitcomb nab the nod for New Chef: South? Will Jim Meehan’s Bartender Manuel score top prize for Beverage Book?
Here’s just a taste of the accolades that are up for grabs below, as well as a spotlight on various gastronomic talents who’ve risen to the top of their fields.
RESTAURANT & CHEF AWARDS
Dan Barber, Blue Hill (New York): Essentially the Alice Waters of the East Coast, Barber was amongst the first chefs to partner with a working farm specifically to supply their restaurant; but Stone Barns goes well beyond bestowing heirloom tomatoes and heritage pork on Blue Hill. Barber also continues his work outside the educational farm with far-thinking projects like wastED, a series of dinners deliciously re-conceiving the waste that occurs at every link in the food chain.
Roy Choi and Dan Patterson (Oakland): LocoL is the perfect expression of both aforementioned Cali luminaries, in their unprecedented, franchiseable partnership. The firing shot of a fast food revolution, the concept offers legitimately craveable menu items made with the “ideology, heat and science of a chef,” as a way to bring inexpensive, healthful and thoughtful food to under-served communities.
Dominique Crenn, Atelier Crenn (San Francisco): A two Michelin star-wielder and “Best Female Chef in 2016” winner by the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards (which has drawn fire for its sex-based designations), Crenn has emerged as a role model and de facto advocate for women in the restaurant industry.
Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad (New York): While EMP is among NYC’s most exclusive, cutting-edge restaurants, Humm has opened up his hospitality group to the common man with Made Nice. The fast-casual counter service destination serves wholesome, affordable riffs on some of his flagship’s most infamous dishes like confit pork with grains and carrots and milk and honey soft serve.
Alice Waters, Chez Panisse (Berkeley): The queen of California cuisine and the godmother of farm-to-table cooking. The chef, author and restaurant owner counts activist at the top of her CV, having founded the Edible Schoolyard Project (which advocates for sustainable food curriculums in schools, as well as free lunches for all children). She’s also served as the Vice President of Slow Food International since 2002.
Blackbird (Chicago): Going strong since 1997, the pride of Paul Kahan’s restaurant group also helped elevate Chicago’s dining scene, thrusting it onto the national stage by way of classically executed dishes and consummate service, coupled with relative accessibility and good old Midwestern hospitality.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (New York): Still one of New York’s hardest to score reservations (and it isn’t even located in the city), Dan Barber’s Tarrytown-situated flagship offers extensive “Grazing, Pecking, Rooting” menus that fall in line with the cycles of a working farm. September honors the grill and draws inspiration from the autumn honey harvest, the finn dorset lamb herds and the season’s first apples.
Del Posto (New York): Batali and Bastianich’s swankiest location has a track record of mentoring some of the city’s best (but most budget-minded) chefs — we’re excited to see if present staff follows in the path of Brooks Headley (of the celebrated, veg patty-serving Superiority Burger) or Mark Ladner of the gluten-free noodle concept, Pasta Flyer.
Manresa (Los Gatos, CA): David Kinch’s three star-sparkler was amongst the first to nudge out foie gras and filet in place of vegetables on a rarified fine dining menu. The biodynamic, four season Love Apple Farms provides resources year round, for highly conceptual offerings like “The Vegetable Garden” (foraged greens, flowers and herbs in “soil”), or savory panna cotta, made with local milk and layered with clods of abalone.
Providence (Los Angeles): This Hollywood darling is proving just as iconic as the establishments its Melrose home housed before it (Le St. Germain, Patina). Chef Michael Cimarusti makes magic with exclusively wild-caught, sustainable seafood, while co-owner Donato Poto wows the crowds with the finesse of the finest French maitre’d, but unmistakable la la land panache.
Candy is Magic by Jami Curl: Portland’s own Willy Wonka (the owner of Quin) teaches readers to indulge their sweet tooth at home, with workable recipes for lollipops, gum drops, “magic dusts” and more.
On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox & Noah Galuten: Drawing from his time at Ubuntu in Napa Valley (and his own Rustic Canyon Wine Bar), Fox shares his secrets to explosive vegetable cookery through deceptively straightforward dishes like “Figs, Celery, Almonds & Pickled Grapes.”
Salad For President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists by Julia Sherman: This cookbook serves as yet another arm of Sherman’s ongoing, evolving publishing project—including a blog showcasing salads made in collaboration with musicians, writers and artists.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat: Declared “America’s next great cooking teacher” by none other than Alice Waters, Nosrat distills decades of experience into four simple elements that can be easily understood and applied by the home cook.
Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, With Recipes by Ronni Lundy: With a JBA already under its belt, will this book sweep the Tasty’s, for its heartfelt exploration of the culinary traditions of the misunderstood Mountain South?
Food Television Show
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: The endearingly irascible culinarian continues to take the road less travelled, in pursuit of paplou soup from Oman, awk from Laos, and yes, even kala chana from Queens.
Dead Set On Life: We promise Matty Matheson hasn’t stuffed the ballots in favor of his Viceland series, which follows him through his native Canada for longanisa sausage-making in Winnipeg, and moose hunting in Newfoundland.
Driven by Food: If anyone could challenge Anthony Bourdain when it comes to infiltrating the world’s best-hidden food havens (and knocking back platters of rice field rats), it’s Andrew Zimmern.
Huang’s World: As idiosyncratic as the lawyer-turned clothing designer-turned restaurateur-turned author-turned TV star himself, Huang’s World expands beyond food culture, to explore issues of race, identity, multiculturalism and more.
Samurai Gourmet: Thank Netflix for giving a platform to this 60-year-old Japanese retiree, who investigates restaurants in his own neighborhood, frequently accompanied by a fictional samurai friend.
Beyond Meat: Positioned as the “Future of Protein,” this L.A. organization is devoted to creating mass-market solutions for replacing animal protein with that of plants — and already has Beastly Burgers (featuring non-GMO protein from peas) and Beyond Chicken Strips (comprised of non-GMO soy) in places like Wegman’s, Kroger, Safeway and Ralph’s.
Farmer’s Fridge: Originally based in Chicago, there are plans to launch 200 new locations of Farmer’s Fridge throughout the Midwest; so look for a salad-stocked vending machine (easily accessed by a touch screen or app) to appear in a neighborhood near you.
Habit: With the motto “Food, Personalized,” Habit eschews the one-size-fits-all nutrition plan approach by collecting patrons’ bio samples and using them to determine how their body responds to food. Depending on the results, users are assigned eating plans and habit coaches, as well as optional meal delivery featuring dishes that are tailored to one’s biology and contain an ideal ratio of protein, carbs and fat.
Impossible Foods: Also seeking to make the global food system more sustainable by addressing our obsession with animal protein, this start-up has famously created the Impossible Burger, which looks, tastes and even bleeds like your standard beef patty, but uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions than the average cow.
Modern Meadow: While a number of companies are focused on turning the tide against eating animals, Modern Meadow is ingeniously tackling the issue of wearing it. Using living cells to grow nature’s materials, the team makes biofabricated leather entirely free of animals.
Heritage Radio Network: Situated inside of two recycled shipping containers inside Roberta’s Pizza, the pioneering radio station combines entertainment with advocacy, through programming like Eating Matters (in conversation with food policy experts and leaders), What Doesn’t Kill You (which examines how to ethically feed future generations), and Food Without Borders; highlighting immigrants’ positive contributions to our food system.
No Kid Hungry: Devoted to ending childhood hunger in America, No Kid Hungry and Share Our Strength are behind multiple initiatives, including Cooking Matters (giving families the tools they need to stretch their food budgets), and fundraisers to launch school breakfast programs.
Pilot Light: Pilot Light supports sustainable, income generating projects in Africa, based on the idea of small sparks that can grow into a larger fire that burns on its own after we are gone. Achievements include the Youth with Disability Entrepreneurs Program, the Mother & Child Development Center, and the Women’s Vegetable Farmer Cooperative in Uganda.
The Melting Pot Foundation: Originating in Denmark, expanding to Bolivia, and now in Brooklyn, Claus Meyer’s Melting Pot provides education and opportunity through culinary programs, cooking schools and full-on restaurants for refugees, immigrants, low-income communities, and individuals with criminal backgrounds.
The Patachou Foundation: Patachou prepares and serves healthy meals to children impacted by homelessness and hunger in food insecure areas and under-resourced neighborhoods like Indianapolis, which has been ranked the worst city in the nation for access to fresh food.