When did the haute cuisine crowd become such a bunch of cunning linguists?
At the James Beard Foundation’s annual awards nomination breakfast on Monday, March 24, Mitchell Davis, vice president of the esteemed (if recently blemished) culinary organization, elicited snickers when he introduced Sullivan Street Bakery owner Jim Lahey, provider of the morning’s munchies, as a “master baker.”
Blushing but grinning, the good-humored prince of pastry brushed aside the crude implication to make a few brief remarks about artisanal foods. Afterward, he offered his take on his profession’s dubious double-entendre.
“I hate the word ‘master baker,’” Mr. Lahey said. “I have nothing against masturbating,” he added, chuckling, “but master-baking? Master-baking is something you do by yourself.”
Given the flurry of one-liners that ensued, the Transom quickly got the impression that this had become something of a “who’s on first”-type routine for the duo.
“Which hand do you use to master-bake?” Mr. Davis asked, chuckling.
“This one!” Mr. Lahey replied, raising his left.
Also on hand to help announce this year’s nomination was Le Bernardin’s Michael Laiskonis, named Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007.
“I’m by no means a master anything,” Mr. Laiskonis said humbly. But talk about self-love. Asked about the upscale seafood restaurant’s lack of nominations this time around, he proudly declared, “I believe that Le Bernardin has gotten every James Beard award with the possible exception of wine service.”