LAST YEAR, New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel needed crowd control and rationing to handle the frenzy over his trademarked doughnut-croissant hybrid, the Cronut, which became a viral success and spawned numerous knockoffs. But just as the furor was fading, the James Beard Foundation has put him back at the center of the culinary map, naming him the nation's top pastry chef this week.
The Beard Foundation also gave a nod to the savory side of the baking aisle, naming Los Angeles bread and pizza guru Nancy Silverton the nation's most outstanding chef. She's only the fourth woman to get the honor since it began in 1991. The others include Alice Waters (1992), Lidia Bastianich (2002) and Judy Rodgers (2004).
Philly chefs were shut out in the finals, but Delaware chef, restaurateur and philanthropist Matt Haley received the 2014 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award.
Haley learned cooking while he was in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. He worked in the industry, then opened his own restaurant, Bluecoast Seafood Grill, in Bethany Beach in 2001. Over the next 10 years, he opened six more restaurants in Delaware resorts.
He also became active in various charitable efforts, including Celebrity Chef's Beach Brunch for Meals on Wheels. In 2011, Haley founded the Global Delaware Fund to help at-risk children in Delaware and around the world.
"I'm a member of the most compassionate, caring industry in the world," he said. "I'm forever grateful for that. I will spend the rest of my life leveraging my business for good."
The James Beard awards honor those who follow in the footsteps of Beard, considered the dean of American cooking when he died in 1985.
Monday's ceremony in New York honored chefs and restaurants; a similar event on Friday was held for book and other media awards. Last year's top-chef honor was shared by David Chang and Paul Kahan.
The foundation's outstanding-restaurateur award went to Boston chef Barbara Lynch, marking only the second time the honor has gone to a woman. Lynch oversees half a dozen restaurants - including her first, No. 9 Park and her most recent, Menton - and is credited with fostering the city's burgeoning food scene.
San Francisco's The Slanted Door, where classic Vietnamese food gets a modern rethinking by owner and chef Charles Phan, was named the nation's most outstanding restaurant.
Donald Link's Peche Seafood Grill in New Orleans garnered two awards: best new restaurant overall, as well as a tie for best regional chef in the South for chef/partner Ryan Prewitt. He tied with Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's, also in New Orleans.