jbfa food

10 Tips for a Great James Beard Award Acceptance Speech

Have you been nominated for tonight’s James Beard Foundation Awards – the greatest culinusterfuck of all time – but you don’t know what to say if you get the prize? Here are 10 last minute tips for a winning acceptance speech.

1. Make a style statement

This is a food event, so when it comes to wardrobe, expandable waistbands and feedbags never go out of style. But, you also have a chance to strut your stuff on the red carpet. Why not be like J-Lo and show off a little skin? Every year, chef Tom Colicchio wows the audience by showing off his completely naked skull. Whatever you do, don’t wear a meat dress. It’s meatless Monday.

2. Loosen up

Snort a little tangerine zest before you go on stage, or, be like James Beard and smoke an onion sandwich laced with tarragon right before the winner of your category is announced.

3. Keep it short

Don’t wear out your welcome with an overly long acceptance speech.  While you might be inclined to wax about your memories in the restaurant business, most of the audience will be ravenously hungry and readying themselves for the scrum at the tasting tables following the ceremony. Keep it quick or they might rush the stage and tear you limb from limb.

4. Be funny

Jokes about Wolfgang Puck’s height, anything about Alice Waters, Mario Batali’s crocs, and gentle jabs at the “New Nordic Cuisine” are all fair game. Or, try your hand at some Jerry Seinfeld-style culinary humor: “What is the deal with chia seeds?”

5. Connect with your audience

This is a food industry audience, so feel free to intersperse your acceptance speech with restaurant-speak (“To my fellow nominees, I guess this award is officially eighty-sixed!”) or winespeak (“This award is not only a great honor, it’s ripe, jammy, and has appealing notes of dried plum, black pepper, and grilled anise. Thank you very much!”).

6. Do your research

The theme of the 2013 awards ceremony is a “Spotlight on Food & Film,” so be prepared to drop some knowledge about some of your favorite cinematic gastronomic moments. DO mention Tampopo. DON’T mention Ramen Girl.

7. It’s not all about you

While you may be honored as an individual chef, it’s important to acknowledge the work of your staff. Be as generous as you like, but don’t go so far as complimenting your waiters. That would upset the whole front-of-the-house/back-of-the-house equilibrium for years to come.

8. Be emotional

Don’t be afraid to be emotional on stage and shed a tear. If you do cry, make sure to save the tears and harvest the salt for a memorable post-awards show seasoning.

9. Don’t be nervous

If you are frightened of being on stage, try imagining that the entire audience is naked. If you are really, really nervous, imagine Mario Batali wearing pants and regular shoes.

10. Thank God

Don’t forget to leave the stage without thanking the almighty, giving praise and gratitude to our lord and personal savior, Thomas Keller.