Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza founder Nancy Silverton won the top honor — Outstanding Chef of the year — at Monday night's James Beard Foundation awards in New York. There haven't been many women to win the top prize, and winner from Los Angeles since Wolfgang Puck in 1998, so it's kind of a big thing. "On this night, Silverton stood regal, the queen of them all, representing both the importance of women in professional kitchens and the bounty of excellent dining in Los Angeles at the moment," S. Irene Virbila wrote in the LA Times.
This was Silverton’s night. And one that was richly deserved.
"She's so generous with her time. She's always available, she's the ultimate mentor. She's trained so many people," says former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl, a close friend of Silverton for many years.
"And she's also the ultimate great boss. She thinks of her team as her family. And her team includes anybody who's ever worked for her. She is queen Nancy, but she's earned it."
Thanking her team, especially chef Matt Molina and pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez, Silverton said that her main strength as a chef was picking very good people to work with her and if she inspires them, then she's doing her job.
Silverton has a lot of friends in the media besides Reichl and comes with that backstory: co-founder of Campanile and La Brea Bakery, then divorce from Mark Peel and loss of a lot of money to the Bernard Madoff scheme, and back into business with Mario Batali at the Mozza corner at Melrose and Highland. She edged out fellow Angeleno nominee Suzanne Goin, and others, for the award. The Outstanding Restaurant honor for the year went to The Slanted Door in San Francisco.
Silverton was on KPCC's Take Two talking about the night (and the after parties) this morning.
Silverton in 2009: Zocalo Public Square photo/Aaron Salcido