The paella de mariscos at Tertulia
The paella de mariscos from "Best New Restaurant" finalist, Tertulia.

Food-dom's Finest Moment

By Gregg Rosenzweig

Restaurants may come and go, but few can boast of having a James Beard Award -- the most prestigious shout out in food-dom. As the virtual Oscars of the food world, the James Beard Foundation Awards shine a spotlight on the best and brightest talent in the food and beverage industry, covering all areas of culinary excellence -- from top chefs to best service to finest new restaurants.

To see who won 2012's top prizes, feel free to gobble up the list below. Winners were announced on Monday, May 7, 2012 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

Best New Restaurant - Finalists

If you're a new restaurant that opened in 2011 and demonstrated unsurpassed expertise in terms of food, drink and service, the Beard board put you on this list.

AQ - San Francisco, CA
Fiola - Washington D.C.
Isa - Brooklyn, NY
Next - Chicago, IL - WINNER!
Tertulia - New York, NY

Fiola in Washington, D.C. The stone-walled dining room at Fiola in D.C.

Sweet onion crepe from Vetri. The outstanding sweet onion crepe from Vetri.

Outstanding Restaurant Award - Finalists

Considering most restaurants open and close in their first few years, it's no small feat to stay open for a decade. But these places have. That they also demonstrate quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Blue Hill - New York, NY
Boulevard - San Francisco, CA - WINNER!
Balthazar - New York, NY
Highlands Bar and Grill - Birmingham, AL
Vetri - Philadelphia, PA

Outstanding Chef Award - Finalists

These gods of gastronomy are defined as being working chefs for at least five years -- who have helped set an industry standard, while serving as an inspiration to other food professionals. No small order.

David Chang, Momofuku Ssam Bar - New York, NY
Gary Danko, Restaurant Gary Danko - San Francisco, CA
Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park - New York, NY - WINNER!
Paul Kahan, Blackbird - Chicago, IL
Donald Link, Herbsaint - New Orleans, LA
Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza - Los Angeles, CA

Nancy Silverton from Pizzeria Mozza The princess of Pizzeria Mozza, Nancy Silverton.

Michael Mina in San Francisco. Michael Mina gets a nod for superior service.

Outstanding Service Award - Finalists

We all love good service, which is why these restaurants scratch more than the surface when it comes to exhibiting high standards of hospitality and service for five-plus years.

Cyrus - Healdsburg, CA
La Grenouille - New York, NY - WINNER!
Michael Mina - San Francisco, CA
Spiaggia - Chicago, IL
Topolobampo - Chicago, IL

The Big Enchilada of Food Awards

  • What's a James Beard Award, anyway? Official answer? A top honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America -- from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors, food journalists, restaurant designers and so many others.

    Less officially? A James Beard Award is a business legitimizer that causes many puffy toques to fly high in the air. For a new chef/restaurant, an award bestows much needed street cred moving forward. For an established one, it keeps you relevant on the foodie's radar, offering another year's reprieve from suffering the most dreaded fate of all -- becoming passe.

    Presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, the JBF Awards (as they're now known) are a great way to make new BFF's in the food world. Nominees and winners are feted at a weekend of events in New York City, filled with social and gastronomic highlights and overall, great care for culinary fare.

    See a complete list of finalists »

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