The 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony will take place May 6 in New York. Nominees were announced two weeks ago with Denver and Boulder recognized in two categories. Chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja, Bistro Vendome, and Euclid Hall is nominated for Best Chef: Southwest- this is her second year to receive this nomination. Frasca Food and Wine is nominated for the fourth time for the Outstanding Wine Service award. In a he said, she said style interview, master sommelier and Frasca co-owner Bobby Stuckey and chef Jennifer Jasinski dish on what's on their minds this awards season.
How does it feel to be a finalist for a 2013 James Beard Award?
He said: I don't look at myself as the finalist, I look at Matthew Mather and the wine team as a finalist. I want to make that so clear. Matt Mather is the most unsung sommelier in the country. Period.
She Said: It feels great to be one of the finalists. It is an honor to be noticed and appreciated by your peers.
What went through your mind when the nominations were announced?
He said: The excitement was outlandish. I was really nervous and not because I wanted my self to be nominated, but because Matt Mather deserves this so much. If you read our nomination, what it says for wine service, it embodies what he has done - first, creating a program that changed how the United States thinks about Friulano wine. Also, building the careers of many people that have left this program. One of the most important wine directors in New York, Dustin Wilson of Eleven Madison Park and formerly of Frasca, talks about Matthew in reverence. Robert Bohr got Grant Reynolds, formerly of Frasca, to be his opening sommelier for his upcoming NYC restaurant. I just want him to get his due for this so badly.
She said: To be honest what went through my mind when I found out was, did Max MacKissock, my husband, get to the finals as well?, and when he didn't, it bummed me out for a second. I am super happy. It would have been the best thing in the world if we both could have made it.
You've been nominated for this award in the past, why do you think this year could be the year that you win?
He said: We're so good at losing, I don't even know if we think this is a good year for us, we've lost so many times. Our big accomplishment is getting nominated from a small market.
She said: I am not sure if this year will be the year I win. I hope it is.
Within your category, who is your biggest competition?
He said: I think everyone who is nominated, they are all great candidates for different reasons. Robert Smith at The Picasso-he and I went through the master sommelier program together. I have great respect for him. I think what they've done at Blackberry Farm is remarkable, and Eric Zeibald, the chef of City Zen used to work with Lachlan and I at the French Laundry, so there's all these great tethers. Shelly Lingdren at A16, wow, that woman changed the way San Francisco drinks Italian wine. That's got to be our candidate. We've been nominated against each other four years in a row, we totally respect what she does and, if she won, we'd give her a hug and celebrate with her and we've said that the last three years.
She said: Hugo Ortega, Bryce Gilmore, Kevin Binkley, Chris Shepard- Basically, all of them are great!
For restaurant owners in Denver that have a James Beard Award as a goal, what is your advice?
He said: I really don't know how the system works even though I've won once before. It's always been kind of like a unicorn for me that I don't quite understand. I think it's real but, I don't know if it's there. I've been at this a long time and I remember sommeliers asking me 13 years ago, hey what's your secret? Well, the secret is really easy, it's just showing up and working hard every day. The more you're at work, the more you're working, the better you become at what you do. It's so unromantic, but it's so the truth, and totally, anyone can do that. We'll have been open nine years this year and I'm still doing what I did nine years ago. I just meditated about the reservation notes fifteen minutes ago about tonight's pre-service.
She said: Be true to your concept and service, be detail-oriented.
What do you plan to wear to the ceremony?
He said: I do know that I just got some new cufflinks from our neighbor Todd Reed. He gave them to me as a gift yesterday and I'm not going to wear them until the Beard Awards.
She said: I need to buy a new black cocktail dress. It's a good excuse to go shopping.
There must be some big personalities in that room, do all the nominees play nice together?
He said: Oh totally. Everyone has a good time. Everyone knows that if you're there, you're there because you represent all of us in this industry that is a very hard industry. So there's a great sense of respect.
She said: I think everyone there feels honored to be there and be a part of it. I can't speak for anyone, but that's the feeling I got.
What would you say in your acceptance speech? Who will you thank?
He said: Happy Anniversary to Danette because that's our 13th wedding anniversary that day. I don't want to say who I will thank because I think it will jinx it.
She said: If, which is a big if, I kind of feel like this is jinxing it?but if I did get the chance to thank people, I would thank first of all Beth Gruitch, my business partner, Max MacKissock, my husband, and John Imbergamo, my friend and PR person for everything in the past billion years. Beth for being the best partner you could ever want and building these great teams together. Max, for pushing me to be a better chef and exposing me to new and progressive ideas. John, for being a sounding board and always someone to bounce ideas off and also for pushing me ahead.
If he was still alive, what would you say to James Beard?
He said: Do you want a glass of Tocai?
She said: Thanks. Thanks for promoting American cuisine and food culture. Thanks for helping our industry be what it is today! And thanks for recognizing me!