The James Beard Awards, which took place last week at Lincoln Center, have rightly been described as the “Oscars for the Food World.” But because they reward chefs and not good-looking people, and because many in the food world are functioning alcoholics, the whole point of the Beards isn’t the ceremony itself, which is boring, but the parties that follow.
This year’s circuit followed thusly: as the gala ended, the really important OGs—Thomas Keller, Jacques Pépin, Daniel Boulud—headed to Per Se, which was closed for the event. Sad people not invited learned as much from a sign on the door. And even though Mr. Boulud stopped by Per Se, he opened Boulud Sud, which is right across the street from Lincoln Center, to welcome the hoi polloi. Vive la différence!
Next, half the crowd went to Del Posto, which won a Beard Award for Outstanding Service. Lidia Bastianich stood on the stairwell and gave a speech. Bartenders were manhandled and the place was packed. The other half of the revelers—the cooler half?—went to Mission Chinese. That was a hot and sweaty tangle of glory and champagne, because Danny Bowien, who had amazing multicolored hair and wore a white Dries Van Noten suit, had won Rising Star Chef.
Across town, the third floor at The Spotted Pig—yes, there’s a third floor; it’s where Jay-Z eats gnudi—was essentially a hot box, packed with chefs like Ignacio Mattos, formerly of Isa, Frank Falcinelli, one of the Prime Meats Franks, and Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine in Miami. A bunch of Mission Chinese people were there too, somewhere.
David Chang was almost certainly getting drunk somewhere as well, and likely encouraging others to do the same, having won yet another Beard Award (this year, it was for Outstanding Chef). A few years ago he had a party bus with a stripper pole and a nondisclosure form. That’s all we’ll say about that.
On this night, all roads eventually led to a Garment District loft where Will Guidara and Daniel Humm of The NoMad and Eleven Madison Park were throwing an invitation-only rager. By invitation-only, of course, we mean there was an invitation that said “invitation only,” but anyone could show up, and everyone did. GM Jeffrey Tascalrella stood at the door on a deserted stretch of 27th Street. “We have Manhattans on tap,” he said excitedly. “It’s an experiment.”
Anxious not to trash their very nice restaurants, Mr. Guidara et al. had hired out a Spartan flat, filled it with Christmas lights, bottles of Maker’s, kegs of Manhattans and a deejay and opened the doors. I saw Andrew Zimmern, not drinking but wearing Stubbs & Wooten slippers. Brian Canlis of Canlis, the best restaurant in Seattle, exuded a combination of excitement and sweat. Even though Mr. Canlis had lost, he said, “This is the best weekend ever. I never get to see all these guys.”
More and more people showed up until you couldn’t move or breathe, but you were so drunk it didn’t matter. Was it the disco ball that spun, or did everything spin? Was there even a disco ball? Was that Jacques Pépin dancing dirty with Stephanie Izzard? (No, he wasn’t there.) Did we get into an hour-long conversation about Tumblr with someone who works at Tumblr? (Yes.) Was it time to go? (Certainly.)
In the elevator, Paul Bartolotta congratulated the Transom on our Beard Award, which is something he made up, while his wife complained that she was hungry.
But even as we left, more arrived. Kate Krader, restaurant editor of Food + Wine, was there with an entourage that included Sang Yoon from Los Angeles’s Lukshon and Chris Cosentino from San Francisco’s Incanto. Around 2 a.m., some more people showed up who weren’t dressed in tuxedos at all but in NYPD uniforms.
That’s when the party ended and a yearlong hangover began.