Flashback: 2012 James Beard Foundation Award nominee – Jaime Bissonnette

I’ve decided to republish this piece for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it reminded me that there is just one month left for nomination submissions for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards. This is an opportunity for any one with a sincere love for the food industry to make sure their favorite restaurants and chefs get the attention they deserve. The James Beard Foundation is accepting nominations through the end of the year. So, if you haven’t yet, get your nominations in for the restaurant and chef related awards!

The second reason I wanted to republish is a pretty simple one. Thinking back on this past year, it has been a whirlwind (for many reasons beyond just The Foodie Journal!). This interview with Chef Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa and Toro (and, very soon, Toro NYC), was where it all started. I’ll be forever grateful for his willingness to help out a fledgling writer who just happened to send him a tweet out of nowhere.

I suppose there’s a third reason. Since this was written, the number of people that take a look at The Foodie Journal has grown considerably. So, for any newbie followers… this is where it really all began. Enjoy!

Fans of any of the competitive cooking shows (Top Chef, Iron Chef America, etc.) are undoubtedly aware of the James Beard Foundation. For those of you that aren’t, the James Beard Foundation is a non-profit organization that is at the center of America’s culinary community. They’ve dedicated themselves to supporting cooking hopefuls by providing 100’s of thousands of dollars annually in scholarship opportunities and professional grants. They help to make the culinary community in America better! As a part of that, they further promote the culinary scene by honoring those involved: chefs, sommeliers and other wine professionals, restauranteurs, cookbook authors, and journalists. These honors are known as the James Beard Foundation Awards. To us foodies, they are our Academy Awards! :)

A few weeks back, the James Beard Foundation released the nominations for the 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards. This year, in the category of Best Chef: Northeast, Boston got an excellent tip of the hat by having two chefs nominated. One of them was Jaime Bissonnette, owner and chef of Coppa and Toro in Boston. Jaime is all about nose-to-tail cooking (offal anyone?), and is dedicated to supporting local purveyors. I had the opportunity to have a few words with Jaime about the honor.

Jamie Bissonette - Photo by Heath Robbins
Jaime Bissonette – Photo by Heath Robbins

Foodie Journalist: What impact do you feel the James Beard Foundation has had in recent years on gastronomy in America?
Jaime Bissonnette: James Beard was one of the most heart filled chefs. What his legacy has done for our community has been epic. The James Beard House is the mecca for chefs. His books are relevant now, and will continue to influence chefs for a long time.

FJ: The James Beard Foundation Awards are considered the “Oscars of the food world”. How does it feel to be nominated?
JB: Being nominated was something I never considered. Having my name listed with a group of people I respect is mind blowing. Knowing that my peers would consider me is overwhelming.

FJ: My understanding is that once you’ve won a James Beard Award, you’re no longer eligible to be nominated. So is this one of those circumstances where it might be better to lose, but be nominated year after year? Having your name mentioned year after year can’t be a bad thing, obviously. Or, does the competitive drive kick-in and you decide “Screw that, I want to win”?
JB: I had always stated that I never thought I would be deserving of winning a James Beard Award. Being nominated is epic. If I win, that’s fantastic. If Matt Jennings wins, that’s rad. Maybe I’ll never get a nom again, maybe I’ll win. I think that winning would be great for my teams. They are just as deserving of a nom as I am. They can hold the places down.

FJ: It’s been just under a month since the announcement of the nominees. Has being nominated for the award changed anything for you? How you’re perceived in your restaurants, or by others in the industry? More diners at Coppa or Toro?
JB: Mostly I have seen it through the community. Friends and other chefs calling, e-mailing and sending notes of congratulations. No too much at Coppa or Toro.

FJ: So, win or lose, what do you have planned for the near future?
JB: Either way, I’ll be in NYC for the awards with tons of friends from all over the country. We’ll have great meals together, celebrate and just enjoy each others company. And we will all probably drink too much.

The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will be held on Monday, May 7th @ Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center. While we wait on the results, make sure to stop in at Coppa for one of the best meals you can have in Boston (my wife is a sucker for the arancini)! You might just get the chance to see Jaime and wish him luck.

From the Boston area? How excited are you to hear that a local boy was nominated for such a prestigious award? Let us know by leaving feedback in the comments. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and on Facebook!

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