James Beard Winner: Stephanie Izard works hard for the money
One of the hardest working chefs in America has been duly recognized. At last night’s James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony, Stephanie Izard was named Best Chef for the Great Lakes region of America.
The Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America.
Stephanie Izard is the chef/owner of the restaurant Girl & The Goat and its diner spinoff Little Goat in Chicago. At just 36, she has accomplished much in her culinary career. The Beard Award is the icing on the cake.
If Chef Izard looks familiar, that’s because she was the winner of the 2008 season of Top Chef, Bravo’s cooking competition show. She was the first woman to win that title, and was also the viewer-elected Fan Favorite, proving she has the unique ability to be a bad ass chef in the kitchen, but popular with the public.
On a visit to Chicago, I got the opportunity to dine at Girl & The Goat. A reservation was necessary three months in advance in order to secure a table, because the place is THAT popular. Easy to see why. The food was excellent, and the vibe is rustic and fun.
Ponytail bobbing, Chef Izard was working in the open kitchen, expediting orders. But she was happy to take a moment to say hello to her guests and pose for a picture. Then it was back to the line, overseeing quality control and getting food to the tables.
And what good food it was. Everything from ham frites (addictive French Fries dusted with ham salt), homemade bread, ribs, namesake goat, and creative desserts, was delicious.
I’m happy to see Chef Izard recognized for her hard work. Unlike some celebrity chefs, she’s where a chef should be, in the kitchen.
Once some chefs hit pay dirt they are rarely seen in their own places. I’ve been going to Scarpetta in New York for years, and have never seen chef/owner Scott Conant there. When asked if he’s in the house, the answer is always no. Not surprising, since he also runs restaurants in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, Miami, and Toronto. Some chefs are too busy building culinary empires.
But Chef Izard is in the house. She spends hours each night on her feet, feeding her guests and overseeing operations of her restaurant first hand.
So kudos to Stephanie Izard for her well-earned James Beard Award and for being a great icon and role model to aspiring chefs.