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Front Row at the 'Oscars of the Food World'

The Tenth Annual James Beard Foundation Awards


NEW YORK (CNN) -- It was Charlie Trotter's night. Good thing his seat in the crowd was so close to the stage. The chef and owner of Charlie Trotter's Restaurant in Chicago won three James Beard Awards, including the top culinary accolade, the Outstanding Restaurant Award.

A second medallion embossed with the likeness of the late James Beard was presented for his television show, "The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter." It won the Broadcast Media Award. The show's eponymous cookbook, published by Ten Speed Press, also was a winner. It garnered the Cookbook Award in the Chefs and Restaurant Category.

Trotter, however, had a surprise in store for the chefs, restaurant owners and food writers attending the ceremony. The man known for his elaborate multi-course meals stunned the crowd by giving up his Cookbook Award. Trotter took the medallion from around his neck and presented it instead to Thomas Keller, another nominee in the category. Trotter said the cookbook from Keller's Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry, was more deserving of the prize.

No report on whether Keller accepted the medal, but the audience clapped, recognizing Trotter's gesture.

Another Trotter accomplishment over the champagne-filled, caviar-studded weekend: He presided over the James Beard Birthday Dinner, held at the Four Seasons Restaurant on Sunday night. Along with Four Seasons executive chef Hitch Albin, he treated guests to a seven-course meal with an impressive selection of accompanying wines.

Honoring the classics

A set of awards which I had the honor of presenting helped prove the point that a love of food is compatible with a long and happy life.

The America's Regional Classics Awards were presented to eight restaurant owners to recognize their history of serving great food in their respective communities.

Seema Wilkes, 92, accepted her award for running Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House in Savannah, Georgia, for more than 50 years. The crowd clapped wildly in recognition of her life's work.

Helen Chock, 83, added more evidence that spending long hours behind the stove must be good for you when she accepted the James Beard Award for Helena's Hawaiian Food Restaurant in Honolulu. She's run the tiny place for "locals in the know" for 54 years -- since before Hawaii became a state.

Other Regional Classics winners ranged from barbecue to vegetarian restaurants, all with local and national followings that earned them a place of honor in the James Beard Foundation.

James Beard awards highlight country's best chefs
May 9, 2000
'French Laundry Cookbook' takes top honors
April 2, 2000
Cast-iron cooking: Book chronicles history of mountain meals
May 14, 1999
Culinary world celebrates excellence at James Beard Awards 1999
May 4, 1999

James Beard Foundation

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