I attended the James Beard Foundation Awards on Sunday for the first time – and with this year’s theme, “Artisanal America: The Craft of Cuisine,” I was especially excited to be there. Co-chairs Dan Barber and Odessa Piper – both Chefs Collaborative members – set a great tone for the evening! And Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City added glamour as co-host!

Congratulations to Chefs Collaborative members Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC for winning Best Chef: Southeast; Craig Stoll of Delfina in San Francisco, CA for Best Chef: Pacific; Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, WA for Best Chef: Northwest – and to all the Chefs Collaborative members nominated this year.

It’s an honor to be asked to cook for the Beard awards. Kudos to the many Chefs Collaborative member chefs who cooked (with local ingredients) for the event, including: MJ Adams of The Corn Exchange in Rapid City, SD; Sam Hayward of Fore Street, Portland ME; Greg Higgins of Higgins Restaurant in Portland, OR; Peter Hoffman of Savoy and Back Forty restaurants in New York, NY; Stephanie Kimmel of Marche in Eugene, OR; Tory Miller of L’Etoile in Madison, WI; Michel Nischan of Dressing Room in Westport, CT; Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC; and Bruce Sherman of North Pond Restaurant in Chicago, IL.

Two books emphasizing sustainability also won top awards. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, her memoir about a year of eating locally, won for “writing on food.” And The River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fernley-Whittinggstall, which makes the case for supporting the environment, vibrant local economies, and respectful treatment of animals, won for “single subject.”

And finally, my hat is off to the James Beard Foundation for putting the spotlight on cooking with local, sustainable ingredients and artisanal products! Chefs have such an influential role in shaping the public opinion about the importance of buying food from trusted and sustainable sources and this year’s Beard awards went a long way toward promoting this important message throughout the culinary community and beyond.

Melissa Kogut, Executive Director