In the biggest surprise of the evening, Georgia chefs Linton Hopkins and Hugh Acheson tied for Best Chef, Southeast, at the 2012 James Beard Awards Monday night at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. The two Georgians have gone up against each other for the past five years for this coveted award, only to lose to other nominees from the region. Hopkins won for his cooking at Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, Acheson for Five & Ten in Athens, his first restaurant. (Acheson also owns Empire State South in Atlanta.)
Hopkins claims he predicted this unlikely outcome. “I called I’ll Have Another in the [Kentucky] Derby, and I woke up the other day and sid it’s going to be a tie.” He’s thrilled with the outcome because it underscores the camaraderie among chefs. “This is a collaborative business,” he said. “In a sense there should be more ties.”
For Acheson, it was his second James Beard Award this year. On Friday he was awarded a citation for his cookbook “A New Turn in the South” at the Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards dinner.
“It’s good that we’re getting these old guys off the ballot so we can new, young blood in there,” he said of the chef award. Once a chef wins a regional award, he or she then goes into consideration for the biggest honor of the evening, Outstanding Chef.
The award for Best Chef, South, went to Chris Hastings of the Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama. Hastings was up against a full roster of well known New Orleans chefs. “It was kinda like the Alabama-LSU game,” he joked.
Among other top awards: Next in Chicago was named Best New Restaurant, and Tom Douglas in Seattle won Outstanding Restaurateur, Boulevard in San Francisco snagged Outstanding Restaurant and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York won Outstanding Chef.
The awards are determined by a ballot vote of judges, mostly restaurant critics and food writers (including this one).