On Monday night, at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala and Reception in Chicago, there were numerous Jewish winners in the midst.
Michael Solomonov took home his fourth award, this time in the Outstanding Chef category, for his culinary mastery at Zahav, while Zachary Engel of Shaya—Alon Shaya’s Israeli restaurant in New Orleans—was named Rising Star Chef of the Year. In broader categories, Bread Furst’s Mark Furstenberg earned the Outstanding Baker prize and Stephen Starr, the man behind Starr Restaurants (including Daniel Rose’s Le Coucou, this year’s Best New Restaurant winner), was recognized as Best Restaurateur. Additionally, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, co-owned by executive chef Dan Barber, won for Outstanding Service.
Lauded cookbook author and Tablet columnist Joan Nathan, who has won three James Beard awards herself and whose latest book, King Solomon’s Table, was released last month, said that the ceremony was rewarding for her because she wrote about some of the winners, including Solomonov and Rose, when they were first starting out. “[This year’s awards are] coming at a moment where Jewish food has come of age. People think it’s something that’s worth writing about and worth eating,” said Nathan, who listed a handful of restaurants, from local Boston café chain Tatte to Portland’s Shalom Y’all, an Israeli street food eatery, as proof. “Jewish chefs are respected like everyone else. I really feel that food trumps politics because a lot of people don’t agree with the politics of Israel, but they love the food.
“We used to think it was just Hollywood that was Jewish. There aren’t that many chefs that are Jewish, but the ones that are Jewish are outstanding,” Nathan said.
Those who want a taste of the Solomonov experience (and a chance to dine with Nathan) can attend a special dinner on May 17 at Zahav’s sister restaurant, Abe Fisher, in honor of King Solomon’s Table.
Zoe Miller is Tablet’s editorial intern. Follow her on Twitter here.