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Uni’s Tony Messina Takes Home a 2019 James Beard Award

And from Portland, Maine, Allagash Brewing Company’s Rob Tod wins as well

A silver James Beard medal is isolated on a black background
James Beard award
James Beard Foundation [Official Photo]

It’s that time of the year again: At a gala in Chicago on Monday, May 6, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2019 chef and restaurant award winners, and Boston got a little bit of the spotlight.

Going into this year’s awards, only a handful of Boston-area chefs and restaurants were on the nominee list. The nominees for the Best Chef: Northeast category were, of course, quite local: Tiffani Faison (Tiger Mama), Tony Messina (Uni), and Cassie Piuma (Sarma), alongside a couple chefs from Providence, James Mark (North) and Benjamin Sukle (Oberlin). All but Mark had also been nominees in the same category last year.

In the end, Tony Messina, executive chef and partner at Uni, took home the prize. “I honestly don’t know why I’m here, but thank you all,” he said in his acceptance speech. “I don’t know what you saw in me, I don’t know what you see in me, but thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he added, referring to Uni owner Ken Oringer. (“I know exactly why you were up there, I know exactly why you won. You earned this! So Proud!!” responded Oringer on Instagram.)

From Boston’s northern neighbor Portland, Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing Company took home the award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer, a category in which he had also been nominated in 2017. In accepting the award, Tod thanked his staff, saying, “They’ve come to work every day with so much passion...I definitely wouldn’t be standing up here if it weren’t for them.”

Also nominated this year but unfortunately not winning the award: Maura Kilpatrick (Sofra), nominated for Outstanding Baker, and Ken Oringer (Uni, Little Donkey, Toro, and others), nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur. It wasn’t the first nomination for either of them, and with any luck, it won’t be the last. (And Oringer has already won a Beard, too, back in 2001 — Best Chef: Northeast.)

In addition to the chef and restaurant awards announced on May 6, the foundation doled out its media awards late last month, and there was one winner local to Boston — Christopher Kimball for his cookbook Milk Street: Tuesday Nights, which won the general book category — and two other local nominees that didn’t make the final cut. And on May 5, the foundation announced its 2019 leadership awards, one of which went to the Pioneer Valley Workers’ Center, which is based in Northampton.

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.

James Beard Foundation [Official Site]

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