This year's James Beard Awards were basically business as usual - some expected winners, some upsets and lots of champagne-soaked after-parties. From the awards ceremony itself, there were a few welcome surprises - lots of female winners. The state of women in the restaurant world has been a hot topic over the past year, and the Beard Awards made sure to show their appreciation for female talent: April Bloomfield, Barbara Lynch, Nancy Silverton, Naomi Pomeroy, Sue Zemanick and Ashley Christensen all took home medals. Below, we highlight the winners of the night, from a San Francisco icon (The Slanted Door) to a hot newcomer (Chicago's Purple Pig). Read on for a look at the big winners from the 2014 James Beard Awards.
Why she won: Because after revitalizing artisanal breads with La Brea Bakery in the 1990s, Silverton brought LA the destination pizza spot it needed (with her partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich) with the Mozza empire. Expanding with meat mecca Chi Spacca in 2013, Silverton proved she can do it all: pastry, bread, pasta, pizza and caveman-size steaks.
Signature dishes: Nancy's Chopped Salad; the butterscotch budino; any of her pizzas; the focaccia di recco at Chi Spacca.
Outstanding Restaurateur: Barbara Lynch of Barbara Lynch Gruppo, Boston
Why she won: Because Lynch's restaurants cover a lot of ground - from ultraluxe tasting-menu-only Menton to the casual Italian trattoria Sportella - without sacrificing quality. Unlike her one-time employer and fellow Bostonian Todd English, she's maintained a rep for high standards and being a great mentor (see: Kristen Kish) by not expanding too rapidly (or outside her hometown). With a big profile in the New York Times Magazine recently (where she came out as a lesbian) and an upcoming memoir, Lynch is just on fire right now.
Best New Restaurant: Pêche, New Orleans
Why it won: An upset in a category filled with media favorites (Carbone) and big-name chefs (Michael Chiarello's Coqueta), Pêche has been a critical and local favorite since it opened last spring. A collaboration between chefs Donald Link and Ryan Prewitt, the seafood-centric restaurant proves that New Orleans cuisine doesn't have to be a static or stuffy tradition. Even better: they are deeply committed to sustainable Gulf seafood.
Signature dishes: The grilled whole Gulf fish with salsa verde; smoked tuna dip; raw oysters.
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York City
Why he won: The Cronut, duh. The former pastry chef at Daniel created an international phenomenon with his hybrid croissant-donut - but his goofy side only works because he's got the technique to back it up. That French-learned precision, matched with his Willy Wonka-ish love of madcap ideas and digital-savvy promotion, means that Ansel is probably the most prominent sweets genius in America - if not the world - right now.
Signature dishes: The Cronut; frozen s'mores; the DKA.
Why they won: Both serious talent, but they couldn't be more different. Bannos Jr. runs a boisterious, Pan-Mediterannean small-plates spot and is a wizard with all things porky; Wetzel is a foraging, vegetable-obsessed cook in a Rene Redzepi vein who runs a tiny, elegant restaurant on a sparsely populated corner of the San Juan Islands.
Signature dishes: At the Purple Pig, it's the pig ear with crispy kale, cherry peppers and fried egg; at the Willows Inn, it's the house-smoked sockeye salmon.
Outstanding Service: The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, CA
Why they won: After revamping the menu in 2012 to focus just on tasting menus - one for $225 and one for $500 - the Napa Valley mainstay has upped their service game as well. Recent reviews have highlighted the friendly, hyper-personalized nature of the service.
Signature dishes: Since chef Christopher Kostow changes the long menu so frequently, and even personalizes the dishes to the diner's personality, he doesn't have real must-try items on the menu.
Outstanding Restaurant: The Slanted Door, San Francisco
Why they won: Chef Charles Phan's restaurant has brought organic ingredients and a high-end seasonal sensibility to Vietnamese food - a cuisine once thought of as little more than cheap take-out fare. Though it's almost two decades old, the Slanted Door remains one of SF's toughest reservations.
Signature dishes: Shaking beef; crab with cellophane noodles.
Why they won: The Eleven Madison Park crew's second restaurant has been a hit since day one - and the bar (and adjoining cozy Library room) are a key part of that success. Serving drinks in categories that range from "light-spirited" to "dark-spirited," mixologist Leo Robitschek's cocktails are complex and cutting-edge, but never sacrifice flavor for being fashionable.
Signature drinks: The Songs of Liberty; Sippy Cup.
Best Chef New York City: April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig
Why she won: Because the gutsy, bold food that Bloomfield serves at this West Village gastropub - a little bit Italian, a little bit Anglo and always comforting - has become incredibly influential. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Spotted Pig is a restaurant that was ahead of its time - and Bloomfield deserves to be recognized for that. Also: With the opening of the John Dory and the Breslin in NYC and Tosca Cafe in SF, Bloomfield has proved that she can manage multiple kitchens operating at a high level.
Signature dishes: Burger with Roquefort cheese and shoestring fries; sheep's milk ricotta gnudi with brown butter.
The rest of the regional winners:
Best Chef Northwest: Naomi Pomeroy, Beast, Portland, OR
Best Chef West: Daniel Patterson, Coi, San Francisco
Best Chef Northeast: Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Best Chef Southeast: Ashley Christensen, Poole's Downtown Diner, Raleigh, NC
Best Chef Southwest: Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston, TX
Best Chef Mid-Atlantic: Vikram Sunderam, Rasika, Washington, DC
Best Chef Great Lakes: Dave Beran, Next, Chicago