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Originally published June 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 9, 2008 at 7:08 AM

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Café Juanita chef wins 2008 Beard Award

Holly Smith of Café Juanita won the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Northwest.

Seattle Times food writer

NEW YORK — Café Juanita's Holly Smith got her day on the stage at Avery Fisher Hall Sunday night, winning the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Northwest.

Seattle's Tom Douglas, who stood in stellar company with restaurant-empire builders Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali, Rich Melman, Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten — all nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur — lost to business partners Bastianich and Northwest-boy Batali, whose family owns Salumi Artisan Cured Meats in Pioneer Square.

Canlis, nominated once more in the category of Outstanding Service, ceded that title again this year.

Smith was a third-time nominee well deserving of the award, said her friend Maria Hines. Hines, along with Seattle's Ethan Stowell and Jason Wilson and Portland's Scott Dolich won the coveted nominations in that category this year.

"We toasted her at Bar Boulud," said Hines, owner of Tilth in Wallingford, who calmed her own nerves at Daniel Boulud's acclaimed cocktail lounge earlier in the evening. "We're so glad she got it," she said.

"It's just great to be here," said Wilson, strolling through the awards reception area with his sunburned wife, Nicole, on his arm after Smith's win was announced. (New York City saw temperatures in the 90s over the weekend.) "Personally, she's gone through so much to be so successful. She's a highly talented chef," he said of Smith.

Douglas was also pleased to see Smith land the win, and flouted convention as usual, favoring jeans and a button-down shirt while his fellow nominees and culinary luminaries, including Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin and Douglas' radio sidekick Thierry Rautureau, wore tuxedos.

And after a charming video presentation in which Seattle's 103-year-old Japanese restaurant Maneki was honored as one of "America's Classics," owner Jean Nakayama went onstage and gave props to her staff. They included longtime employee and septuagenarian "Mom" Fusae Yokoyama, who smiled from behind Maneki's bar on the wide screen poised center-stage in New York City, where chef Bobby Flay and "Sex and the City" actress Kim Cattrall played host.

Nakayama told the crowd that Maneki was Seattle's first sushi bar. But she didn't tell them that after the gala reception, where chefs from across American were feeding famished foodies, she'd be heading to Buffalo, N.Y. — where she planned to eat Buffalo wings at the famous Anchor Bar.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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