The Secret Way to Win an Award

It’s a strange thing to travel all the way to Kentucky for an award you do not think you will win. This occurred to me on the empty Saturday night flight from New York to Louisville for the annual conference and awards ceremony of the IACP, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, whose imprimatur is among the most prestigious in all of food media.

In fact, when I was choosing the publishing house for my latest book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre, Regan Arts’ swashbuckling publisher Judith Regan exulted in another of her books, Zachary Golper’s gorgeous paean to artisanal bread, Bien Cuit, garnering an IACP nomination. It did not win, but I was mighty impressed, though such recognition then seemed like some faraway peak that I would never scale.

Then in March, a forwarded tweet caught me off guard, informing me that How to Drink Like a Billionaire had been named a finalist for the 2017 IACP Cookbook Award in the wine, beer, & spirits category. This was the second stunner of the winter, as weeks before Billionaire had won the Gourmand World Book Award for best drinks education book in the U.S. and was then shortlisted in that category for “best in the world,” to be decided in China later this month.

I was infinitely grateful for these votes of confidence, but hesitant to travel all the way to Kentucky for an award I figured I was unlikely to win. In my warped view, the quickest way to guarantee a loss would be to make the public and strenuous effort of actually traversing the 750 miles to the ceremony. It somehow seemed a bit presumptuous and anti-karmic, like preordering Dom Pérignon or preparing a victory speech.

But then, I reasoned, I might never get to go to another ceremony at which I am actually nominated for something. And it was such an honor to be named an IACP finalist that traveling there was worth suffering the potential jinx. So I convinced myself to book a hotel room, hop a plane, and, the night before, take myself to the bar of a dark, clubby Louisville landmark called Jack Fry’s. There I distracted myself with sublime shrimp and grits, a juicy burger, local Willett Distillery bourbon whisky, and a fine view of the bar’s vintage photographs of native son Muhammad Ali.

The ceremony the next day was at the Louisville Palace, a resplendent old theater with Spanish Baroque architecture and lush colors that seemed lifted from an Eggleston Kodachrome. As the program progressed, co-host and The Chew personality Carla Hall summoned to stage a veritable conga line of food media luminaries, including the New York Times’ Sam Sifton, who happened to be seated across the aisle from me, Spanish super chef José Andrés, and Deep Run Roots’ Vivian Howard. At some point during this time, while sitting alone in the dark of the audience, I had kicked off my constricting wingtips, confident in the assumption that I would not be called to the stage.

And then, I was. When they called my name, I stomped into my still-tied shoes and shuffled on to the stage in these makeshift slippers. I had no acceptance speech prepared, of course, so my remarks were mercifully brief, but I did start by pulling out a piece of paper and pretending to read from a prepared speech.

IACP Cookbook Winner

“My thanks to the members of the IACP…the International Association of Police Chiefs,” I began. (A Google search the night before had revealed to me that this was the other famous IACP.) Knowing laughter ensued, and I soon exited stage right.

Looking back now, I think that having my shoes off must have clinched the victory. It neutralized the jinx.

The lesson is clear – the next time you are nominated for an Oscar or an Obie or a turn as PTA treasurer, if you are going to risk showing your face at the announcement, there is a way to spin the wheel of Fortuna in your favor: slip off your damn shoes.

Mother’s & Father’s Day, Graduation

Speaking of How to Drink Like a Billionaire, I might be biased, but I think it would be an ideal Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or graduation gift.  A full-color hardcover brimming with original illustrations and photographs, Billionaire contains 120 snackable chapters that empower readers to approach wine with a billionaire’s unapologetic confidence and discernment. Named a “book you should read now” (Julia Vitale, Vanity Fair), the “ultimate guide from the best in the business” (Dane Neal, WGN Radio), “one of the most approachable and essential wine books to date” (Lauren Glendenning, Aspen Times), it has been featured in Forbes, the New York Times, Maxim, and on Bloomberg TV.

So please consider the book for those in your life who are inclined to wine or those who should be. In fact, I’ll take off my shoes in hopes that you do.

Austin Down, Aspen Bound

Last weekend was another wonderful spin in that sizzling city of music and flavor, Austin, Texas, where I had two sold-out events and a book signing at the wonderful Austin Food & Wine Festival. Here is the wine line-up for both:

1) Piper Heidsieck “Rare” 2002
2) Pahlmeyer Chardonnay 2013
3) Belle Glos Pinot Noir Las Alturas 2015
4) Chateau Gruaud Larose 2012
5) Masi Amarone “Costasera” 2011
6) Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2007


1) Schramsberg Brut Rosé California Mirabelle NV
2) Trefethen Riesling 2015
3) William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux
4) Infinite Monkey Theorem Red NV (in cans)
5) Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 2014
6) Osbourne Pedro Ximénez Sherry NV

Catch me next month at the Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic, which is my 12th straight year appearing at this fantasyland of feasting. I am doing a book signing and a full five appearances, including three focusing on the best modestly-priced wine (“You Say $20, I Say $200”) and two exploring the most delicious special occasion bottles (“Wine for Zillionaires”).