Hats Off to the Batts
Beverly Stephen / June 2010
The James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award for 2010 was presented to Food Arts' founding editors and publishers Michael and Ariane Batterberry at the awards ceremony held May 3 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. A video presentation not only summed up their notable contributions but included footage of a young Michael Batterberry cooking with the master himself. Ariane Batterberry noted that Beard, who had once been an opera singer, would have felt right at home in the venue and that he would have been proud indeed to see the respect now commanded by what was once considered a blue-collar industry. Those days are long gone. The who's who of the industry decked out in black-tie attire walked the red carpet to enter the glamorous gala, applauded their award-wining peers in ceremonies that closely resemble the Oscars, and then sipped Champagne and nibbled on delicacies (crawfish rémoulade, sweet chile/crab dumplings, duck pastrami, pear and fresh pecorino ravioli, butterscotch budino) prepared by chefs from around the country—each of whom was personally selected by a past Outstanding Chef winner. Several dozen awards were presented during the three hour–plus ceremony. Highlights included Outstanding Chef: Tom Colicchio (Craft, NYC); Outstanding Restaurant: Daniel (NYC); Rising Star Chef: Timothy Hollingsworth (The French Laundry, Yountville, CA); Best New Restaurant: Marea (NYC). Inductees to the Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America included Leah Chase (Dooky Chase, New Orleans), author/historian Jessica Harris, Paul C.P. McIlhenny (president/CEO McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, LA), architect David Rockwell (NYC), Culinary Institute of America president Timothy Ryan, and chef Susan Spicer (Bayona, New Orleans).
The Batterberrys, who founded Food & Wine magazine in 1978 as well as Food Arts in 1988, played a major role in making the food world what it is today. Chef Michel Nischan (Dressing Room, Westport, CT) noted that "Food & Wine actually helped the public at large take the food world as a serious form of cultural expression." And before Food Arts, Michael Batterberry explained, "there was no magazine directed to professionals that treated them with the degree of respect and wit and knowledge and sophistication they deserve".
In his introduction Dan Barber (Blue Hill in NYC and at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY) noted that "Michael and Ariane Batterberry have the life you want. You want to be married 43 years, too. And you want to look like them when they look at each other and say, ‘I couldn't have done it without you.' You want humor and intelligence to inform your relationships and instruct your work. You want to have lived the life of an artist—to be a Balanchine dancer, a painter in Venice, a Cambridge classicist, an artist for the Paris Review, a part-time professional singer—they've done all that. And you really want their current job—to be at the center and the source of American food culture and still get your nights and weekends off.
After a standing ovation, the Batterberrys graciously thanked publisher Marvin Shanken for his staunch support and gave a shout out to the editorial, art, and advertising staffs that make it all happen. They also thanked the late Jim Beard, whom they viewed both as a friend and a mentor.
Evoking the spirit of Beard, Michael Batterberry suggested that he could well be smiling down upon the wall-to-wall crowds that were pulsing through the hall. "Every once in a while, I like to do a big bash", Beard once told him. "You should always invite more than you can accommodate. You have to go to extremes. I like to get hordes of people crawling around and beating against each other. Pile them up to the rafters, then settle back and watch."
To view the video visit FoodArts.com.