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Posted on Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Zingerman's Roadhouse chef Alex Young discusses James Beard award

By Jessica Webster


Zingerman's Roadhouse chef Alex Young won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes on Monday night.

Photo courtesy of Zingerman's.

Zingerman's Roadhouse chef and owner Alex Young won his first James Beard Foundation Award at a ceremony in New York on Monday evening. caught up with Chef Alex by phone as he was driving home, with his family and his camper in tow. What does this mean to you personally and professionally?

Alex Young: Well, I have to say it's super exciting. I mean, you look at the other nominees, and it's just huge. I'm on cloud nine. Does it mean more after being nominated four times and not winning?

Alex Young: In some ways yes. It's like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. The first time or two, I was somewhat disappointed. You look at the competition, give yourself odds, go to New York with all your hopes and dreams. And yeah, it was disappointing. Of course it's an honor to just be nominated, and you always tell yourself that all the way home. But it's also really fun to win.

It's cool for the Roadhouse. When you look at the people who have won in the past, the kind of restaurants that win, this is a real confirmation for the big team we have here. I don't do this all alone. It's the whole team of the men and women who work at the Roadhouse.

When we didn't win the first few years, I told myself that I just had to work harder. And that's really what it's about in a restaurant. Always trying to do better. What do you think makes the Roadhouse special?

Alex Young: Well, we find traditional foods and do them right. We don't take shortcuts. Often, we do things the hard way. It's one of our core values.

Take our fried chicken. It's one of the most popular items on the menu. We've spent the last six months trying to make it better. People already really like it, but we've spent six months working out a slight seasoning adjustment to make it even better. I understand the whole family was with you in New York. Do your kids get what a big deal this win is for you?

Alex Young: Yes, I think they get it. Well, actually I am not even sure I get it yet. But yeah, they're in the restaurant as much as possible with me, and I think they understand that this is a big honor.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Drink section for You can reach her at



Wed, May 11, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

A2 is lucky to have such a talented chef...although trenchantly insightful chef/writer/tv celebrity Anthony Bourdain, in his newish book "MEDUIM RAW" , in the chapter "heroes and villains"" places the james beard house squarely in the latter category for being a 'private dining society for the soon to be incontinent". But their imprimatur counts , so congrats to chef young.

Patti Smith

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

Congrats! I met him a few years ago when I was helping to organize a fundraiser for Project Grow. I was super nervous because, like, hello, this guy is practically famous! Fortunately, he couldn't have been nicer and more fun to work with! :) Great guy!

Kristin Judge

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

Well deserved! One of my favorite places to eat in Washtenaw County!

Michael Cohen

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

The complete list of winners is at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. It shows that Alex Young is in VERY talented company. It includes people like Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, which has been a big success in New York. (She used to cook in Ann Arbor, by the way, at the early version of Zanzibar).


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

Nothing personal to Mr. Young but the Roadhouse food is pretty awful and waaay overpriced. I don't get why people automatically think that with the name Zingerman's it has to be good.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

I am sorry, I just don't get it....overpriced and overrated!


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

I was happy to see the award until I read back through the linked posts and came to the chef's quotes at Bon Apetit and read that the chef doesn't respect vegetarians and their choice not to kill animals in order to eat. Respect begets respects, or not. Maybe the Roadhouse should be the next restaurant to just &quot;go away&quot;


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.



Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

Congratulations Chef Young, an accomplishment of great honor... Saw this on another website today, also about a kudos for Zingermans.. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Congrats to Chef Young. Whether or not you like Zingerman's as a business, the people putting out the food are first-rate, and this is just further evidence.