Monday, October 12, 2009

James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award

This article falls under Healthy Lifestyles because Chef Jacques Pépin, author of a healthy cookbook, "Simple and Healthy Cooking," is featured.

Chef Jacques Pépin, cookbook author (of another 21 books), television personality and Dean of Special Services at the French Culinary Institute in New York City received the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award on May 2, 2005 - the highest award in the food industry. And I was there.

The first reason I attended the 15th Annual James Beard Foundation Awards was that Jacques, his daughter and wine expert Claudine, a cardiologist Dr. Theodore Feldman and I have been traveling to seven cities for the campaign. At these events, the cardiologist talks about the physiology of cholesterol, I talk about lowering cholesterol levels with diet and exercise, and Jacques and Claudine demonstrate quick and healthy dishes. Besides Jacques’ reputation for amazing knife skills, he and Claudine banter around, keeping us amused. Their food demonstration is a joy to watch. Each time it’s a little different so I learn at every event.

During this tour, I have seen how popular Jacques is and how well he handles his fame. He is known for his knife skills. When he chops vegetables, his hand moves so swiftly, you can only see a blur. This leads to "oohs," "aahs" and applause from the audience. People line up with books, programs, and any item to have him sign it, and he does so graciously. He is kind to everyone, even when he isn’t working. He really deserves this award.

The second reason I attended this event was that my son Kimbal Musk, co-owner and chef at The Kitchen in Boulder, , gave me the ticket as my birthday gift. I'm proud to say Kimbal has been invited to cook at the James Beard house in August '05.

Back to the awards ceremony: as this was the first time I’ve attended, I thought an explanation of the procedure would help future attendees. It starts at 5:30 PM, and for three hours you watch the cooking elite receive awards. If you’re in the restaurant or food service industry, it must be like watching the Oscars. There are nominees and winners who thankfully give very short speeches. I recognized many names from eating at their fabulous restaurants.

Afterwards the crowd moves to a large room with about 30 food stations and 10 drink stations. At each station you can meet these famous chefs as they serve fabulously prepared food in interestingly-shaped tiny plates. No plastic dishes or forks in this company. The food is amazingly delicious. It’s hard to believe one table can make enough Crispy Garlic-Scented Frogs' Legs with Onion Soup Risotto and Black Trumpet Mushrooms for hundreds of people, and they don’t taste like chicken. There was also Venison Sausages on Creamy Polenta with Dried Cherries and Red Wine, Coffee-Roasted Beef Fillet with White Beans and Wild Mushroom Salpicon, Sticky Toffee Pudding with Cinnamon-Sautéed Pears, and Twice-Baked Almond Croissants with Ice Cream and Seasonal Fruit Compote. Does this mean you eat at every table! Not if you're serious about lleading a Healthy Lifestyle. You need to consider this evening a treat, choose your favorite seven savory and three sweet dishes, which are very small, and enjoy.

For anyone who loves to eat at fabulous restaurants, and would like to see the cooking elite receive their just rewards, go to for future events.

Bon Appétit !

As a postcript, may I repeat how gracious Chef Jacques Pepin is. At the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, June '05, Jacques joined us at The Kitchen's reception at The Wild Fig restaurant. He had many commitments yet found time to chat and be photographed with everyone who attended. Such a good guy!