Restaurant Chefs Talk Dining Experiences at James Beard Awards

Aaron Sanchez and Zarela Martinez

Just as movie stars vie for an Academy Award and television stars wish for an Emmy, food stars dream of taking home the ultimate prize in the culinary industry: a James Beard Award. Honoring a commitment to excellence, the James Beard Foundation recognizes those restaurants, chefs, and food and spirits professionals who've proved they and their businesses offer the quintessential dining experience — something to which their peers can aspire. In New York City last night, nominees from 20 categories, including Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Service and Outstanding Restaurant, gathered in Avery Fisher Hall with some of the biggest names in the industry, like Food Network's own Anne Burrell, Ted Allen and Aarón Sánchez, for the chance to earn a coveted Beard medal.

Before the ceremony got under way, nominees, presenters, past winners and Foundation members strutted their stuff on the red carpet, and FN Dish was on hand to chat with them. For these passionate chefs and food people, there's seemingly no insurmountable kitchen task or meal they couldn't create flawlessly at home, but, still, given the award-worthy meals coming out of top-notch restaurants, Dish editors were curious: What meals do restaurant chefs prefer not to make themselves, and indulge in only when dining out?

For Aarón, it's Asian cuisine, simply because of its inherent complexity. "It's so many ingredients, and it's a sort of sensibility that maybe I don't have," Aarón said. Cooking Channel superstars Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar, however, explained that they must resort to eating octopus at restaurants simply because their young daughters at home don't enjoy it, and Gabriele doesn't want to "swallow a whole pound of octopus" by himself. Among his favorite variations on this Mediterranean dish are at Los Angeles' Mozza and New York City's Osteria Morini.

Next Iron Chef competitor Elizabeth Falkner prefers to let restaurants do the deep-frying for her, given its tendency to produce a lingering smell. "I don't fry a lot of food at home," she explained, "because I just hate the smell of fried oil in my kitchen." Two of her most-memorable meals are gourmet and casual fare alike, the overall gourmet experience at Chicago's Alinea, and the more casual plate of potato chips, caviar and crème fraiche at The Spotted Pig in Manhattan.

Hedy Goldsmith and Heidi Ladell

Nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef, FN Dish contributor Hedy Goldsmith isn't shy to admit that, despite being able to compose five-star original desserts, she struggles with some of the more traditional favorites. "I think classically I'm a bit challenged in terms of producing classic desserts."

Related Reading:

See the full list of 2013 James Beard Award Winners.

(Photos courtesy of Paul Porter/

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