Tuesday, May 6, 2003

named best chef of the
Northwest and Hawaii

George Mavrothalassitis has won the James Beard Foundation Award for best chef of the Northwest and Hawaii.

"It's very fantastic!" a breathless Mavrothalassitis said by telephone from New York City yesterday a few minutes after winning. "Very, very exciting!"

Mavrothalassitis, owner of Chef Mavro in Honolulu, is the third Hawaii chef to claim the prestigious award, often described as the Oscar of the restaurant industry.

Only chefs Roy Yamaguchi (in 1993) and Alan Wong (in 1995) have won in this category, which places Hawaii in competition with chefs from the Pacific Northwest.

His words tumbling over themselves in his excitement, Mavrothalassitis said he had prepared a "just-in-case" acceptance speech, but once his name was called, "I totally forgot what I was supposed to say. ... I just said whatever I had in my mind."

It was his third nomination. Fellow nominees were Clare Archibald, of Café Azul, and Vitaly Paley, of Paley's Place Bistro & Bar, both in Portland, Ore.; and Scott Carsberg, of Lampreia, and Eric Tanaka, of Dahlia Lounge, both in Seattle.

Winning the top award of outstanding chef was Eric Ripert, of Le Bernardin in New York. The outstanding restaurant award went to Zuni Café in San Francisco.

Winners are chosen by industry professionals and food journalists nationwide.

"It's nice to realize what you do is recognized," Mavrothalassitis said. "In this job you always have doubts. I always doubt what I do. This gives me confirmation."

He said he and his wife, Donna Jung, would attend the post-awards gala, but they'd skip the other parties that would continue into the night.

"I think I have talked to enough people already," he said. "I think I am going to find a nice, quiet restaurant and have a late dinner with Donna."

A complete list of winners will appear in tomorrow's Today section.


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