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Chef's Choice: Meet the James Beard Award Best Chef Nominees

WWD got the five nominees for Best Chef in New York City out of their chef coats to chat about how they were feeling pre-ceremony, what they plan on wearing.

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Dan Kluger

Photo By Steve Eichner

The James Beard Awards, which will be held on Monday night at Lincoln Center, are essentially the food world’s version of the Oscars — or the Met Ball (being thrown the same night across town). It’s the night the industry’s heaviest hitters get gussied up and toast the best in the biz. WWD got the five nominees for Best Chef in New York City out of their chef coats to chat about how they were feeling pre-ceremony, what they plan on wearing and how they dress when not in uniform.


DAN KLUGER, ABC KITCHEN
Semifinalist for Best Chef in New York City 2012 and 2013. ABC Kitchen won Best New Restaurant in 2011 under Kluger.

Dan Kluger’s apartment in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn reeks of one of the most satisfying scents in the world: bacon. “Its hangover food,” he chuckles, pouring pancake batter onto the griddle. A substantial bowl of soft scrambled eggs — with cheddar and crème fraiche folded in — is on the counter. Next to it rests a cutting board speckled with finely chopped chives. Still-sizzling bacon is on a serving dish. Kluger is reenacting his Sunday routine — making breakfast for his girls — little ones Ella and Georgia and wife Hannah — after stopping by the farmer’s market a few blocks away. “It’s literally right there,” he says, pointing out the window. Kluger is a born-and-raised New Yorker and worked under some of the best chefs in the city (Danny Meyer, Floyd Cardoz and Tom Colicchio) before being tapped by Jean-Georges Vongerichten in late 2008 to helm ABC Kitchen, where he’s earned his nomination. “I’m not holding my breath,” he says of his chances. He does have one thing figured out: his outfit. “I’m good friends with Todd Snyder, so I’m fortunate that he’s making me a custom navy blue tux that I’ll wear with shoes by Cole Haan,” he says. “And maybe a flask.”

Sunday Funday: “I have two daughters, ages 8 and 5, and their favorite thing is making and eating pancakes. I’ve tried to use other people’s recipes in the past, but they always know the difference. They want ‘Daddy’s Pancakes.’”

Costume change: “I tend to get very lazy and just want to wear the same things over and over again. Especially during the week: I get dressed, I go to the gym, I change [into workout clothes] there. After, I change back into whatever I was wearing, then I go to work, I change into my whites. I’m not in my own clothes for another 12 hours. I put the sweater back on, I go home and take it off. So I’m really wearing my own clothes for an hour or two a day.”

Fashion jitters: “Todd and I collaborated on aprons together when he was up for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award. He called me up and was like, ‘I need a favor.’ So I went with him when he presented at Vogue. I walk in the room — it’s me and his design staff. So we roll in, everyone’s in our aprons, and it’s Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg, Reed Krakoff, Steven Kolb, who’s a good friend, and so on. We made them donuts. They were all surprised. They were like, ‘What is this? Why do we get breakfast?’ I was like, ‘Here are your donuts, good-bye!’”


NEXT: April Bloomfield >>


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