Boom. Image via the James Beard livestream.

From a Washington perspective, the night's first winner turned out to be the highlight of the James Beard Awards. Blaine Wetzel of the Willows Inn on Lummi Island won the Rising Star Chef of the Year, a national award bestowed upon chefs younger than 30.

If you're going to be all technical about it, Wetzel actually tied with Jimmy Bannos, Jr. of Chicago's Purple Pig, the first time this award has yielded a shared win. And presenter Todd English yielded lots of unintentional hilarity with his inability to pronounce "Lummi."

Wetzel gave a short, classy acceptance speech, thanking his team and his parents, who flew out for the ceremony (awwww).

The ceremony had a music-in-food theme, and I enjoyed the sultry announcer-lady's voiceover proclamation that “Jimmy Bannos grew up listening to the sounds of dixie in his native Louisiana. Blaine prefers the sounds of nature.”

Snark aside, Wetzel's win was an exciting moment, and by far the highlight of the night for the Seattle delegation (also, this bit of good news from Friday's journalism awards ceremony). Despite the teleprompter-delivered references to grunge and Macklemore--and the Nirvana intro music--Portland's Naomi Pomeroy won Best Chef Northwest. She beat out Renee Erickson, Jason Franey, and Ethan Stowell, who skipped the awards to travel through Germany and celebrate his 40th birthday.

Joshua Henderson and Matthew Parker were up for a design award for Westward, which went to Chicago restaurant Grace.

Speaking of Chicago, or at least Chicago-rooted sports legends, Hanna Raskin summed the night up nicely when she tweeted, "OK, Seattle, did you toss a billy goat out of town or something?"

Here's the full list of James Beard Award winners. And hooray for all the female chefs who won tonight. As for Seattle, well...wait 'til next year.


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