The ceremony for the 2016 James Beard awards, honoring bright lights in the world of food, took place Monday night in Chicago. One of the earliest awards — for Outstanding Baker — was given to Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston and Cambridge. Flour is known for its savory sandwiches, cheeky riffs on cultural icons like the Oreo and the Pop-Tart, and some pretty famous sticky buns. (Fellow sugar sister Maura Kilpatrick of Oleana, nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef, lost to Dahlia Narvaez of Osteria Mozza in LA.)
Chang faced serious competition. Also nominated were Mark Furstenberg of Bread Furst in Washington, D.C.; Zachary Golper of Bien Cuit in Brooklyn; Belinda Leong and Michel Suas of B. Patisserie in San Francisco; and William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves in San Francisco.
Chang was on her way to becoming the Susan Lucci of the Beards — she was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2011 and 2012, Best Chef Northeast in 2013 and 2014, and Outstanding Baker in 2015. When she appeared again on this year's list of semifinalists, I wrote, "Prediction: Chang will be named every year until she wins."
This was the year.
Chang is also behind South End restaurant Myers + Chang, whose chef Karen Akunowicz (of recent "Top Chef" fame) was also nominated, in the category of Best Chef: Northeast. Akunowicz didn't fare as well as her boss; Zak Pelaccio of Fish & Game in Hudson, N.Y., went home with the award. Also nominated in the category were Susan Regis of Shepard in Cambridge, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor of Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, and Brian Hill of Francine in Camden, Maine.