Inside the James Beard Awards

Some might compare Monday’s James Beard Foundation Awards to the Oscars. There’s a red carpet. And a stage. But this is a celebration of people who feed your appetite for fine food, not just entertainment. It’s a gathering of the tight-knit world of well-respected, well-fed luminaries of the restaurant world. While heavy on the New York representation — perhaps simply a matter of home turf — there was still a sense that chefs from DC were catching up with their friends in Boston, that Seattleites were making dates to head down to San Francisco.

With open bars and chef stations across the two floors of the gala, one thing was clear: people were having fun.

The evening began with red carpet arrivals, despite a light drizzle and sub-optimal temperatures. The awards ceremony began at 6pm on a busy stage in Avery Fisher Hall. By 9 pm, the silver medals hung around well-deserved necks and we headed for some nibbles and a sip of Perrier-Jouet Champagne.

If there were any trends at the dinner stations — of which were were at least 25 — it was this: crawfish, grilled cheese and chowders. A trend towards comfort food? Regional American cuisine? Creatures from the sea? Whatever drove chefs to invent the crawfish croque monsieur or the Dungeness crab Reuben sandwich, I don’t care. It was all delicious.

Paul Grieco, winner of "Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional" for his winelist guidance at Terroir, and his entourage, showed outstanding pride for the East Village outpost.

Wylie Dufresne, chef whose NYC restaurant WD-50 just announced a new menu.

Chef Michael Anthony won Best Chef: New York City, an award that must have made restaurant Danny Meyer and his celebration of American cooking and service, Gramercy Tavern, proud.

If you ever pass through Providence, RI, make a pilgrimmage to La Laiterie and Farmstead Restaurant. Chef and Nominee Matt Jennings has created a glorious outpost of artisan food there. And he posts some great tweets. @MatthewJennings

Despite the fact that Washington DC went home dry this year, minibar's Jose Andres (left) was in good spirits. Wolfgang Puck (right) was awarded this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Fronterra Grill's Rick Bayless drew camera attention on the red carpet.

Blue Hill's Dan Barber was there, to represent the bastion of spectacular local food in its nomination for Best Restaurant.

Food and Wine's editor, Dana Cowin, was inducted to "Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America."

Two-time JBF Award-winner Ted Allen, host of the Food Network's Chopped, would rather take pictures than have his taken.

Daniel Boulud of NYC's Michelin-starred Daniel brought his daughter, Alix.

Momofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi was awarded Rising Star Chef of the Year, pictured here next to David Chang.

California Caviar in the press room was a welcome sight.

A bite of hamachi and sip of Perrier-Jouet champagne - let the gala begin!

Seasonal nbbles included a savory custard with chive blossoms and pickled fiddleheads.

"Save the foie" badges made chef sentiments clear: the upcoming California ban on the fattened goose liver is not okay.

Crayfish croque monsieur? Yes, please!

The second floor balcony offered a breath of fresh air and more bites to eat, with a dramatic background: the Met.

Every party needs a cake to finish out the night!