Taite Pearson and Gary Kucy are contenders for “Best Chef: Northwest.”
The rest of the country is about to learn what Idaho food lovers know well: that our small towns are home to some extraordinary culinary talent. When the prestigious James Beard Foundation released its “Best Chef” award nominees for 2013 on February 19, two Idaho chefs made the list for the Northwest region, Taite Pearson of della MANO in Ketchum and Gary Kucy of Rupert’s in McCall.
The James Beard Foundation (JBF) awards are considered among the nation’s top culinary honors. Since its founding in 1986, the foundation has sought to recognize, promote and preserve culinary arts in the America. James Beard, who died in 1985, was a cookbook author and chef, who, as an educator and mentor, has had a profound influence on American food culture. Both Pearson and Kucy recognize the significance of the nomination, having each worked previously with JBF winners. “I’ve worked with a lot of chefs who have won a James Beard award,” says Kucy, “but I never expected to be one of them.” Likewise, Pearson explains that he’s worked with many well-known chefs and has had a role in their award-winning efforts.
Though it’s still too soon to know how this accolade may affect his career, Pearson says that he remains as committed as ever to his craft and to della MANO’s locally sourced, hand-crafted Italian fare; he doesn’t foresee any major changes in light of the recognition. “With or without the award, we push for excellence everyday,” he explains. All things considered, he says, “We’re thankful for being recognized for doing what we love.”
Kucy also says that it’s been “business as usual” since he learned of his nomination for him and his team at Rupert’s, where they specialize in seasonal and locally-sourced cuisine with a global influence. He does, however, acknowledge that the honor could help bring recognition to his restaurant, the town of McCall, and Idaho dining in general. “It’s great to come to a small town in Idaho and have a wonderful dining experience,” he says and hopes to attract more clientele who appreciate quality food—to his own tables and to tables throughout the state.
The JBF awards, which include honors for chefs, restaurateurs, food journalists, and other industry professionals, are presented each year at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. This year, the ceremony and gala reception will take place on May 6. Final nominees for the 2013 awards will be announced on March 18.For more information: The James Beard Foundation www.jamesbeard.org della Mano www.dellamanorestaurant.com Rupert’s www.hotelmccall.com/rupert-s-restaurant/rupert-s.htm