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Oregon’s Best Chefs Dominate James Beard NW Nominations

The sassy and irreverent Portland-Man-About-Town Byron Beck nailed it Monday in his blogpost “Chefs Night Out: Beard Celebration & Ace After Party“, when he described Sunday’s James Beard in Oregon Dinner at the Multnomah Athletic Club as being “the food equivalent of the Battle of the Network Stars.”

As beautiful Jennifer Heigl of Daily Blender eloquently stated in her article “Portland Hosts James Beard Awards Pre-Announcement Soiree“, it was the “must-attend spring event in Stumptown”, bringing together in community our best culinarians, foodies and food media, hipster elite and high society (the Schnitzer’s bought the first VIP table).

MAC Executive Chef Philippe Boulot was in fine form, even with arm in sling from a reputed vehicle accident, hobknobbing with every VIP guest and almost everyone else. As host, the MAC’s food station was glamorous, befitting the societal stature the club enjoys here in Portland.

Oregon’s “Culinary Old Guard”, including Philippe, Vitaly Paley, Greg Higgins, Cory Schreiber, Cathy Whims and the culinary team of Caprial & John Pence pressed flesh and passed foods, receiving foodie-love like Eric Clapton or Paul Simon at an Earth Day concert. What a pleasure – for me – having been away from Oregon from 1995-2009, to bear witness to these fine chefs thriving so well. We’re so fortunate in Oregon to live in the food-Eden of North America, leading the US in local chef/local farmer philosophy for thirty years.

The other chefs being honored – Daniel Mondok, Matthew Lighter, Charlene Rollins, Scott Dolich, Stephanie Pearl Kimmel, Andy Ricker, Christopher Israel, Oswaldo Bibiano, Jenn Louis, John Gorham, Gabriel Rucker, Jack Czarnecki and Naomi Pomeroy – I have only just begun to get to know over the last two years. It is a distinct pleasure to begin knowing you all.

Nicky USA, perhaps the best meat purveyor in North America, led by the venerable and determined Geoff and Melody Latham, rolled up in style to both the MAC and the Clyde Commons after-party in a stretch white Expedition (yes, I did get to sneak in for a sip of whiskey).

In beverages, while local coffee was not represented, Widmer Bros, Willamette Valley Vineyards, House Spirits, Sokol Blosser, Hawks View Cellars and Anne Amie Vineyards provided delicious sips for a crowd estimated at 650 or so.

Social Media Coverage

Active social media coverage began months ago with a team led by Oregon Culinary Institute and Chalkboarder. Numerous video interviews were produced by Kevin Richards of OCI and distributed on the James Beard in Oregon Facebook Fanpage. The Twitter account @beardinoregon spear-headed the Twitter hashtag #jbfa into Portland’s trending Twitter topic all evening, by tweeting the night’s program in the hours leading up to the dinner.

James Beard Foundation 2011 Nomination Announcement Lunch

For a great description of the media-only lunch at Oregon Culinary Institute on Monday, where James Beard Foundation read-out the final nomination announcements, please visit Daily Blender’s blogpost “Oregon Culinary Welcomes the 2011 James Beard Award Finalist Announcements“. Nice write up over there.

Congratulations are in order to Gabriel Rucker for being one of five Rising Star Chef of the Year nominees. A pleasure to know you, Chef.

Oregon led the category Best Chef Northwest, with nominations going to Christopher Israel, Cathy Whims and Andy Ricker.

Finally, appreciation is due to the students of Oregon Culinary Institute – you represented yourselves with professional distinction in assisting the Chefs, MAC Club, Lane PR and James Beard Foundation in executing this high-profile event.

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Nibbles & Networking at Foodportunity Seattle

Last night I had the pleasure of being back in Seattle again to nibble and network at Foodportunity Seattle, held at Tom Douglas Restaurants Palace Kitchen.

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This is the third Foodportunity I’ve been to inside a year and find the networking invaluable and the nibbles nom nom nom nom nom. I lost my date Libby Tucker, CEO of Beer2Buds, for about an hour (she’s particularly excellent at networking) and found myself engaged in numerous conversations with the Washington Beef Council, Whole Foods, chefs, public relation professionals, restaurateurs, food bloggers and foodies.

Keren Brown, the organizer of Foodportunity, somehow seems to attract a hip, diverse and professional crowd to these events… and the “foodie speed-dating” had a disproportionate ratio of pretty women to men (this was also observed at Foodportunity PDX last September and is anticipated to occur again in Portland March 7th).

The nibbles were deliciously nom-y! I especially enjoyed the chicken pate quenelles and Cathy Whims’ (Nostrana in Portland) dessert offering. I’m curious to see what the final commentary reveals as to favorites from the Chef’s offerings!

If you weren’t able to make Foodportunity PDX last fall, nor last night’s Foodportunity SEA, tickets ($20 pp) are on sale for Foodportunity PDX at the Heathman Hotel in Portland March 7th. I guarantee a night of great food related networking – and because I’m deeply passionate that Portland has the hottest culinary scene in the world – will also guarantee a stellar night of nibbling.

Jeffrey J Kingman