There were more hugs and downcast looks when the lights came up and the crowd of 1,000 or so dispersed. On Friday, friends on Twitter and Facebook, such as Ivy Manning, Robyn Eckhardt, and Wendy Tien reminded me that I do impactful work. Asian Dumplings photographer Penny De Los Santos and recipe tester Candace Grover sent good wishes that made my smile.
Luke Nguyen, nominated for The Songs of Sapa, got me laughing. “At least two of the greatest books of all time were nominated,” he humorously emailed from Sydney, Australia.Was I disappointed? Of course! Who likes losing? Nobody. It sucks.
But I had the great honor to have been a finalist. This is my second cookbook and I’ve been a finalist four times between IACP and James Beard. That's darn good, Aaron Wehner reminded me; he's the publisher at Ten Speed Press and was my editor on Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.
There are many other worthy cookbooks that should and could have been contenders. Awards such as these are strange, and it can be hard to make sense of the final results. As the sting wore off, I thought of the following:
Dumplings vs. sticks vs. fish: If my book was up against another dumpling book, it would have been a fair match. But my Asian doughy self was in a category with Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires, a sumptuously photographed Argentine grilling book and New Zealand celebrity chef Al Brown’s Go Fish, an homage to fish.
Try, try, try again: Michel Richard won at the 2007 James Beard Foundation awards in the Outstanding Chef category. In his acceptance speech, he said that he had been nominated twelve (12!) times and finally triumphed! Richard is one of the most accomplished chefs in America and I’d been following his career since the 1980s. Actor Jeff Bridges made over 60 movies and had been nominated 4 times for an Oscar before he won this year for Crazy Heart.
Give it your all and enjoy: Charles Phan and Slanted Door have been short listed for several Beard awards. The first year, he and his wife attended. When he saw that some of the other chefs had brought their crew, he did the same the next time he was nominated. Charles didn’t win that year. But he and his loyal long-time Slanted Door staff flew to New York and had a blast going around town. It was their way of celebrating the James Beard Foundation's recognition. (I ate all the foie gras and drank all the bubbly I could at the 2007 Beards. This year, I became very familiar with Portland’s food carts!)
Take the edge off: Award-winning author Naomi Duguid gave me this great advice before the 2007 IACP awards where my Vietnamese cookbook was up for best first book and best international cookbook: We have been where you are many times. Sometimes you won’t understand the judge’s final decision. Have a drink. (I cozied up to a Manhattan that evening. Last Thursday, it was red wine.)
Many thanks for reading, cooking, and supporting my work. Next week, I’m signing a contract with Ten Speed Press for the next book. (It’s another Asian single subject.) Will the third one be the charm? I don’t know. What’s important is making a cookbook that people will use and keep around.
Related links: 2010 IACP Cookbook Award winners