The list for the 2012 James Beard Foundation nominees os hot off the press, with two of the chefs represented having cooked in kitchens right here in Montana. But the two in question do not actually hail from the Treasure State. Each appeared as featured chefs at the Resort at Paws Up annual Montana Master Chefs event, held at summer’s end. Noted chefs from around the country are invited to cook for guests, along with providing guests an afternoon cooking demonstration. The last two years have hosted solely Top Chef competitors, but in previous years Paws Up flew culinary royalty in to cook, and I was delighted to have been part of that.
In 2007, a course-after-amazing-course from Northern California’s Chef Craig Von Foerster (Post Ranch Inn) and Chicagoan Chef Bruce Sherman (North Pond) delighted diners. This year, Sherman has been once again nominated by the Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Great Lakes – a nomination nod he’s consistently received numerous times.
In 2008, Chef Bradley Ogden (Bradley Ogden Las Vegas) and New York City’s Chef Daniel Humm of (Eleven Madison Park) flew into the Last Best Place for the MMC event. Despite a healthy 10-person entourage, Ogden’s food had some definite misses. Humm’s food, on the other hand, was so exquisite the sins of Ogden were washed away clean.
That night I remember sitting across from Maria Ferrer – daughter of late entertainers Rosemary Clooney and José Ferrer. There as part of the Ogden entourage, I admit conversation conspicuously drifted to her cousin George Clooney a few too many times – in direct proportion to the number of wine swigs. But even the salt-and-pepper playboy couldn’t trump the spiritual experience of Humm’s turn in the kitchen – despite the fact that I consider “Gorgeous George” the finest actor working in Hollywood today.
In 2010, Humm won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef – NYC. He is nominated this year for “Outstanding Chef,” and was most recently awarded his third Michelin star for Eleven Madison Park. The 2012 Michelin list awards just 10 U.S. restaurants with the three-star distinction.
Local Boy Does Good: The Missoulian newspaper’s most recent set of InBusiness stories note that local Whitefish food star Andy Blanton (Cafe Kandahar) has been invited to prepare a seven-course meal at the James Beard House in New York City – an opportunity that could possibly garner widespread recognition from critics. Blanton was previously long-listed as a semi-finalist (with 19 others) on Beard lists for Best Chef: Pacific Northwest in 2010 and 2011 in a process that eventually pares candidates down to just five per region for votes.
The invitation bodes well for recognition of Blanton in coming years.