Andrew Zimmern Crowned Outstanding Personality/Host at the James Beard Foundation Awards
TV actors have the Emmy Awards, movie stars the Oscars and Broadway greats the Tonys. For chefs, restaurateurs and food-media professionals, it's all about the James Beard Foundation Awards. Each year the Foundation celebrates not only the newest, best eateries and the talent that helms their kitchens, but also the esteemed cookbook authors, journalists, TV personalities and digital videos that make up the ever-growing food-media industry. Just days before next week's James Beard Awards Gala (taking place Monday, May 1 in Chicago) at which the restaurant and chef awards will be bestowed, the most-respected names in the publishing, television and digital worlds came together for the Media Awards in New York City Tuesday night.
For Travel Channel's own Andrew Zimmern, the ceremony was both a business dinner — he hosted the jam-packed event that featured an elegant dinner prepared by previous James Beard Foundation Award-winning chefs — and a time to revel in his own work in media as well. He was nominated in two categories, including the prestigious Outstanding Personality/Host category, in which he ultimately took top honors for his multiple programs on Travel Channel: Andrew Zimmern’s Bucket List, Andrew Zimmern’s Driven by Food and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Through tears Andrew thanked the team at Travel Channel and his family, and he explained what drove him to share the world's (most-unique) food through his experiences. "What I really wanted to do was make a show about people and about a quality in the world that seemed to be having it less and less of it all the time," he said, "and telling stories about the things that brought us together rather than the things that divided us."
Many of the night's recipients proved to be overtaken by emotion when accepting their coveted awards, including the beloved Dorie Greenspan, who accepted the Baking and Dessert book prize for her newest publication, Dorie's Cookies. She nearly didn't attend Tuesday's reception, as she revealed in her acceptance speech, but she was ultimately convinced otherwise after her agent reminded her, "This is your family." And indeed the crowd offered their support with hearty cheers as she took the stage.
The theme of Tuesday's event was Powered by Food, as it recognizes, among other elements, "the shared images that become our portal to cuisine from far afield," the Foundation explains. Andrew's travel-based television programs were among several works that focused on place-specific practices. Ronni Lundy's book Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes earned not only the American Cooking book award but also the 2017 Book of the Year Award. The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook by Salma Hage earned the Vegetable Cooking Beard Award, and KTVA Anchorage's Harvesting Alaska won the award for best Television Segment.
As honorees accepted their medals on stages, guests at their seats dug into a comforting meal that only furthered the global reach of the event. Chef Maricel Presilla offered an appetizer of Jipijapa shrimp ceviche, Chef Michael Solomonov a second course of Savta Mati's borekas (aka the sesame-flecked pastry filled with rich feta pictured above) and Chef Rick Bayless a short rib entree with Oaxacan pasilla chile salsa borracha.
Come dessert, Margarita Manzke, a Restaurant and Chef Awards nominee in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category, offered individual servings of halo-halo. This traditional Filipino sweet treat featured a base of coconut tapioca topped with pineapple and bright berries, and it was exactly the cool, refreshing bite we craved after the hearty dinner.
Click here for a full list of the 2017 James Beard Foundation Media Awards.