"Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio passed a quickfire challenge of his own Monday when he was named the nation's top chef by the James Beard Foundation.
Colicchio, whose numerous restaurants include Craft, Craftsteak and the recently opened Colicchio & Sons in New York, was named outstanding chef during an awards ceremony that is considered the Oscars of the food world. It's an honor for which he'd been a finalist seven other times since 2002, the same year the organization named Craft the nation's best new restaurant.
Though Colicchio drew many accolades early in his career, he rose to prominence in 1994 when he and partner Danny Meyer opened Gramercy Tavern, which earned Colicchio three stars from The New York Times and several Beard awards, including best chef in New York City in 2000 and outstanding restaurant service in 2001.
Colicchio's cookbook, "Think Like a Chef," earned him a Beard cookbook award in 2001. More recently, he's become known for his role as the lead judge on the Bravo television series, "Top Chef."
The award for outstanding restaurant went to an equally epic name -- Daniel Boulud's Daniel restaurant in New York, one of only a handful to get four stars from The New York Times. Boulud, who has restaurants around the world and is known for his contemporary French cuisine, has won multiple previous Beard awards, including best restaurant service for Daniel in 2009 and outstanding chef in 1994.
The James Beard awards honor those who follow in the footsteps of Beard, considered the dean of American cooking when he died in 1985. The awards ceremony was held in New York, where the Beard Foundation is based.
This year's outstanding service award went to Chicago's Alinea, where chef-owner Grant Achatz is known for his ultramodern, often deconstructionist approach to cooking. He is considered at the forefront of the so-called molecular gastronomy movement. Achatz received the Beard Foundation's outstanding chef award in 2008.
The outstanding restaurateur award went to Keith McNally, whose New York restaurants include Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Pastis. Best new restaurant went to chef Michael White's Marea, which serves the seafood-rich cuisines of Italy's coastal regions.
Rising star chef of the year went to Timothy Hollingsworth at Yountville, Calif.'s much-lauded The French Laundry.
The Beard Foundation also named its top regional chefs around the country, including Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park for New York City (considered a separate region) and Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine, for the Northeast.
Other regional winners were: Koren Grieveson of Avec in Chicago (Great Lakes region); Jeff Michaud of Osteria in Philadelphia (Mid-Atlantic); Alexander Roberts of Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis (Midwest); Jason Wilson of Crush in Seattle (Northwest); David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif. (Pacific); Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami (South); Sean Brock of McCrady's in Charleston, S.C. (Southeast); and Claude Le Tohic of Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (Southwest).
The organization's Lifetime Achievement award went to Ariane and Michael Batterberry, the founders of Food & Wine and Food Arts magazines.
On the Net:
James Beard Foundation: http://www.jamesbeard.org/