Food & Wine magazine is changing up its annual Best New Chef awards this year. They've added a people's choice category, a joint project with CNN food website Eatocracy. The awards are given regionally. To vote in the New England category, click here.
Voting isn't open ended; there's a predetermined slate of candidates. It includes local folks like Jamie Bissonnette, Chris Coombs, Joseph Margate, Robert Sisca, and Gerard Barbin, as well as chefs from Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island. As I write, Bissonnette (Coppa, Toro) and Nemo Bolin of Providence's excellent Cook & Brown Public House are in the lead, with Coombs (Deuxave, dbar) not far behind.
I've felt Bissonnette deserves the Best New Chef award for a while now, which raises the question: What is a "new" chef? If I were making the list right now, I'd also include Jason Bond of Bondir, Diana Kudajarova and Tse Wei Lim of Journeyman, and Barry Edelman of 5 Corners Kitchen.
Part of me would really like to see Barbin stage an upset. He's the chef at Sensing, which is closing to make way for new restaurant Aragosta in the spring. (The incoming chef is the very talented David Daniels of Topper's at the Wauwinet in Nantucket.) It would be great for Barbin to have that on his resume going out.
There's a rumor out there that some chefs logged on the second this poll went up to cast multiple votes for themselves, before the folks at the website realized and limited it to one vote per computer. Who knows if this is true. With any poll like this, I suppose there's a danger of it coming down to which chef has the most friends he or she can get to vote. (That reminds me! Munch Madness is coming right up.)
What do you think of the slate of candidates? Who deserves to win? And what do you think of this kind of contest in general?
UPDATE: Jamie Bissonnette wins! Congratulations, and much deserved.
From top: Bissonnette, Margate, and Coombs. (Globe Staff Photos/Dina Rudick, Wendy Maeda, Essdras M Suarez)
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