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It's Official: Service at Valentino Is Best

May 02, 1996|DAVID SHAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, won the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Service Award among all restaurants in the United States during a black-tie gala Monday night in New York.

Selvaggio, who also owns Primi and Posto restaurants, said later that he thought the award to his flagship restaurant, which will be 25 years old in December, was "especially important to Los Angeles, where fine dining has faded a little bit" in recent years. "Hopefully, this award to my entire team will be an inspiration to others."

The James Beard Foundation was established to honor the memory of one of America's great chefs and cooking teachers. The winners are chosen in a three-step process involving restaurant critics, other food professionals and previous James Beard winners nationwide.

Outstanding Chef of the Year went to Jeremiah Tower of Stars in San Francisco; Los Angeles chef Michel Richard of Citrus was a finalist in the category. The night's other top awards went to Commander's Palace in New Orleans as Outstanding Restaurant of the Year, and to Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, authors of "Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas," for Cookbook of the Year.

Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Yountville won California Best Chef; Mark Peel of Campanile in Los Angeles was a finalist in that category.

Jack and Jamie Davies, proprietors of Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga, won the Wine and Spirits Professionals Award. Zelma Long, president and chief executive of Simi Winery in Healdsburg, was one of seven inductees into the Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America. And San Francisco's Martin Yan of "Yan Can Cook: The Best of China" won the award for Best Television Food Journalism.

There were two double-winners in the Monday night ceremony. Julia Child, the octogenarian doyenne of the contemporary American food scene, drew the only standing ovation when her public broadcasting program, "In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs," was named the best national television cooking show. Child's book of the same title was honored as the best restaurant and chefs cookbook. In addition, Child presented the lifetime achievement award posthumously to Peter Kump, founder and president of the James Beard Foundation.

The other double-winner was Danny Meyer, owner of New York's Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Park Tavern, who was elected to the Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America and was also honored as Humanitarian of the Year for his work in such charitable endeavors as Share Our Strength, City Harvest and Food & Hunger Hotline.

As is the case virtually every year, New York restaurants and chefs won the most national awards, with Douglas Rodriguez of Patria winning Rising Star Chef of the Year, Chanterelle winning the outstanding wine service award and Sarabeth Levine of Sarabeth's winning Pastry Chef of the Year. (Patina chef Michael Otsuka was a finalist in the Rising Star category and Patina pastry chef Victor Cordes was a finalist in the Pastry Chef category.) But a Midwestern restaurant, Brasserie Jo in Chicago, was named best new restaurant of the year.

Sanford D'Amato of Sanford restaurant in Milwaukee, who won the Midwest Chef of the Year award--one of eight regional chefs so honored--drew a round of applause and laughter during his acceptance speech when he implicitly acknowledged New York's traditional dominance by saying, "I'd like to thank the Beard Foundation for actually finding Milwaukee."

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