Winners of James Beard journalism awards includes controversial fictitious persona

It's perhaps one of the sexiest, most controversial wins the James Beard Foundation Awards has hosted in a while.

The winner of the first ever humor category at this year's James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards Dinner on Friday went to Ruth Bourdain, the snarky, fictitious mash-up and Twitter avatar of Ruth Reichl and Anthony  Bourdain.

After more than a year of tweeting expletive-laced, pithy, 140-character laugh-out-loud tweets, the identity of this culinary anti-hero still remains shrouded in mystery - a formidable feat in a foodie world where gossip runs wild.

Not surprisingly, when the real Ruth Bourdain was asked to stand up and accept the award, there was only silence, save for this online reaction: "I just want to zest you all and smoke you right now. Absinthe smoothies for everyone after the ceremony!" he/she tweeted.

Ruth Bourdain takes former Gourmet magazine editor Reichl's haiku-like tweets and "mashes" them with Bourdain's trucker-talk parlance - comedically-timed F-bombs that punctuate caustic narratives dripping with sarcasm.

But when it was announced that the Twitter persona - up to then just a fun way to fill one's daily quota of pithy-one liners - had been nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award earlier this year, it ignited a minor storm of discontent among food writers.

A thread that began on an online forum for the Association of Food Journalists criticized the nomination for undermining serious food journalism and cheapening the awards.

The real Bourdain, for his part, is a strong supporter of his online mutant offspring as is Reichl.

In defense of the nomination, Bourdain wrote a scathing response on his blog in March saying, "Coming from a profession whose vast majority spend their hours and days writing about ‘kicky new muffin recipes,'  'Pie: The Next Big Thing' or attending launches for bottled water, restaurant openings, and anywhere they can fill their plastic lined pockets with free food and swag - the whole notion of someone-anyone -'cheapening' the business sounds like a bunch of old hookers complaining about the new girl who kisses on the lips."

Meanwhile, other winners at the James Beard journalism awards include Diana Kennedy's Oaxaca al Gusto, which was named the Cookbook of the Year. Kennedy has been described as the Julia Child of Mexican cuisine, with 50 years of experience behind her.

On Food and Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee was inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame. The book was first published in 1984 and merges science with food.

Awards for outstanding chef and restaurant will be live-streamed Monday from New York at 6 pm EDT at

Here are a few other major wins from the book, broadcast and journalism categories:

Cooking from a Professional Point of View
Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine

by René Redzepi

General Cooking
The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century
by Amanda Hesser

Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories
by Grace Young

Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine
Photographer: Ditte Isager

Audio Webcast or Radio Show
CBC Ideas: "Pasta: The Long and Short of It"
Host: Megan Williams
Area: Canada and Online

TV Food Personality/Host
Alton Brown
Show: Good Eats

Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location
Top Chef: Season 7
Host: Padma Lakshmi
Network: Bravo

Television Program, On Location
Avec Eric
Host: Eric Ripert

Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award
Patric Kuh
Los Angeles
" Animal Magnetism," " Making their Move," " Time for a Redo?"

Food Section of a General Interest Publication
San Francisco Chronicle
Jon Bonné and Miriam Morgan

Group Food Blog
Grub Street New York - Daniel Maurer, Jenny Miller, and Alan Sytsma

Individual Food Blog
Politics of the Plate - Barry Estabrook

M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award
Jonathan Gold - LA Weekly
" A Movable Beast"

Personal Essay
Tom Junod
" My Mom Couldn't Cook"




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