It’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve taken into consideration the distinction of winning a James Beard Award when choosing a restaurant. It certainly isn’t my first consideration. (The first is almost always a rave review from a friend or food blogger I trust.) It can, however, be the thing that puts one restaurant in the lead if I’m trying to decide between a couple that seem equally appealing.

If you’re unfamiliar with the James Beard Foundation, what it does, and what the awards are all about, this video will give you a crash course.
Last night, the 2012 James Beard Award winners were announced, giving me some new restaurants and chefs to take into consideration, as well as new blogs to check out. Here’s a list of some of the big winners:
  • Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park, NYC
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef: Mindy Segal, Mindy’s HotChocolate, Chicago
  • Best New Restaurant: Next, Chicago
  • Outstanding Service: La Grenouille, NYC
  • Outstanding Restaurateur: Tom Douglas, Tom Douglas Restaurants, Seattle
  • Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard, San Francisco
  • Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC)
  • Cookbook of the Year: "Modernist Cuisine" by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet (The Cooking Lab)
  • Publications of the Year: Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs of Food52, and Darra Goldstein of Gastronomica
  • MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award: John T. Edge, Saveur "BBQ Nation"
  • Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location: "Chopped," Host: Ted Allen and judges
  • Television Program, On Location: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,
  • Media Personality/Host: Ted Allen, Show, "Chopped," Food Network
  • Group Food Blog: The Salt: NPR's Food Blog, Maria Godoy,
  • Individual Food Blog: Poor Man's Feast, Elissa Altman, "Craving the Food of Depravity"
Regional Chef Awards
  • Bruce Sherman of North Pond in Chicago (Great Lakes region)
  • Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama in Hoboken, N.J. (Mid-Atlantic)
  • Tory Miller of L'Etoile in Madison, Wis. (Midwest)
  • Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern in New York (New York City); I recently reviewed Gramercy Tavern – I can see why the chef was honored.
  • Tim Cushman of O Ya in Boston (Northeast)
  • Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce in Seattle (Northwest)
  • Matt Molina of Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles (Pacific)
  • Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Ala. (South)
  • Hugh Acheson of Five and Ten in Athens, Ga., and Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta (Southeast)
  • Paul Qui of Uchiko in Austin, Texas
Do you place any emphasis on James Beard Awards when you’re choosing a restaurant to dine in or even a publication to read?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

2012 James Beard Award winners announced
The country’s most prestigious awards for chefs, restaurants and food publications have been announced. Find out who was honored.