Last night, I had the incredible pleasure of attending the James Beard Awards—the Oscars of the food world—along with Cooking Light Public Relations Associate Director Erin Clinton. In no particular order, a few observations on winners and attendees (as they pertain to Cooking Light, naturally):

Maricel Presilla, chef-owner of Cucharamama, in Hoboken, NJ, took home the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award. We’re thrilled for her—in part because she’s been nominated so many times before and yet this is her first time to actually win—but also because Cooking Light honored her in our first annual Trailblazing Chef Awards last year.

Chris Hastings, one of our hometown heroes and chef/owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama, won Best Chef: South. Look for more on Chris in our October issue…

Next restaurant in Chicago won Best New Restaurant. Chef Dave Beran was on hand to accept. Next blew us away when it opened last year, leading us to give co-owner Grant Achatz a 2011 Trailblazing Chef Award in the Innovation category.

Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern, Best Chef: NYC), Jim Meehan (PDT, Best Bar Program), Hugh Acheson (Five and Ten, Best Chef: Southeast, tie) are all planning to work with Cooking Light on a huge project this fall. Details to come later this month…

We saw contributor Allison Fishman (pictured with me, above) at about 10 pm, perilously late for a woman with a 7 a.m. call time Tuesday for an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show. No worries: she’s got energy to spare, one of the many benefits of her joyfully healthy lifestyle.

I also had a lovely chat with chef Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, NC. Reusing won Best Chef: Southeast last year, and told us last night how much her friends love Cooking Light. Plans to get her wonderful food to grace our pages are in the works.

I chatted briefly with Sean Brock of McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston, SC, another of the South’s best and brightest (he picked up Best Chef: Southeast in 2010). He was serving tasting plates of heirloom beans with ramps and cornbread, just another of his divine creations that put indigenous Southern ingredients to the best possible use. We LOVE what Brock does at Husk—it’s without doubt some of the best food in the country right now—and plan to explain in detail in our November issue.