Here's the cloud. The event had an uncomfortable undercurrent. At the end of the evening it was disclosed that Melanie Young will not be its fearless leader next year. After 16 years of excellent and very devoted service to the James Beard Foundation it seems as if the new administration behind the organization put the project out to bid and she was undercut. This was disclosed in a heartfelt testimonial to her. Melanie, proving herself to be the total trouper we all know her to be gave an extremely dignified “farewell speech.”
The Beard awards were a big client for her. But more than the monetary loss, she is a passionate champion for them. She believes in them. And, she really saved their ass when the Beard Scandal went down last year. Not only that, but when I asked her if I could BYOW to the award dinner because I feared they would be pouring plonk (which they did in deed), she told me ‘no!” Even knowing she was on her way out, she wouldn’t have the Awards embarrassed, even if it was a snobby wine writer who wanted something to drink during dinner.
(FYI. Another surprise was in store for Melanie at the Big Awards, as the man she loves, David, proposed to her on stage. True to form, as she gained back some composure, she leaned into the mike and said, "Will someone please resuscitate my mother?"
On another note, which has nothing to do with clouds, David Leite won the James Beard award for his website and a hearty congratulations.
On another note: when wine writing shares the podium with spirit writing, wine rarely gets awards. Are spirits writers better than wine writers? Are spirit editors better editors than wine editors? Or is it a comment on the terrible state of wine writing in America? Or is the spirit category just sexier? Pete Wells (an excellent writer who is also a great guy, so much deserved) won for a cocktail piece. The book award went to Michael Jackson's Whiskey over Elin McCoys Parker book and Juhlin's Champagne book.