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My Olympic Medal

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

We did it. The James Beard Foundation named Hunter Angler Gardener Cook as the Best Individual Blog for 2013! Turns out third time was the charm; I’d been nominated twice before, in 2009 and 2010. And even though only three entries are nominated each year — so in athletic terms you’ve “podiumed,” earning at least a bronze medal — I’d been really anxious about losing a third time. It’s no fun sitting in that room and hearing someone else’s name announced.

I didn’t want to become the Susan Lucci of the Beard Awards even though intellectually, I know I had no right to think that way: Three nominations without a win is not uncommon. Chef Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City has been nominated seven times without a win, as has Sara Moulton, who sat at our table. But still.

beard logoI almost didn’t attend at all. It costs a lot of money to fly to New York City, stay in a hotel and eat the way you really oughta when I am in town for a major food event. Wasn’t sure it would be worth it. But then I saw that a host of other wild food folks also made the cut: Tama Matsuoka and Chef Eddy LeRoux for their Foraged Flavor; Jesse Griffiths for his Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish; Steven Rinella for his TV show Meateater; Kirk Lombard for his webcast The Curious Adventures of Kirk Lombard. Maybe there was something in the air this year at the Beards? Could this be the Night of the Hunter? So I decided to go.

Holly and I dolled ourselves up and walked into Gotham Hall, an old bank building with a gigantic rotunda. It was a huge difference from the 2010 Beards, which, while nice, was more akin to a typical journalism awards venue — think convention center, not black tie gala. This time, while it wasn’t a black tie affair, it was plenty swank-tastic all the same. Lots of food celebrities milling around, lots of “Hey, I’ve seen her on TV” moments. And the drinks were flowing.

We were seated with, as I’d mentioned, Sara Moulton, Sky Dylan-Robbins of the New Yorker, Atlanta Chef Kevin Gillespie (of Top Chef fame), and a nice guy named John Gonzalez… who, it turns out, has won 13 Emmy Awards. Uh, yeah. Crazy table, right? I was so nervous I could barely eat or drink. I managed to get down a beer, but the parade of food and booze they put in front of use was largely lost on me; this was a shame, because much of the meal was cooked by fellow Californians from San Diego.

As the awards began to roll in, it began to look like a massacre for my friends. Tama and Eddy lost, then Kirk, then Steve. Ugh. Bad night for wild food. At least other friends were winning, like Dan and Mirra from Perennial Plate, Diane Morgan for her book Roots and Sandor Katz for The Art of Fermentation. Finally, I was the last wild food guy standing.

Everything started to get blurry when Ted Allen (from Food Network’s Chopped) announced the nominees for Best Individual Food Blog: Alder Yarrow from Vinography, Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille, and me. My heart stopped when he announced my name. I might have shouted like a hockey player scoring a hat trick… OK, I know I did.

Photo by John Gonzalez

Photo by John Gonzalez

I felt like I was levitating as I went to the stage, and Ted went to put the James Beard medal around my neck. That’s when it hit me: This was my Olympic medal. For many years I was a distance runner, and a pretty good one, too. Every morning I’d wake up with dreams of making the Olympic Trials, and then somehow overcoming the odds to earn a spot on the team. It was a nice dream, but my body broke before I could fully realize it. I’d moved on.

But every Olympics I watch in rapt attention. I still tear up a bit when I see American runners do well. Wearing the Beard medal around my neck, it felt like this was as close as I’d ever get to standing on that podium. And while the Beards are not the Olympics, Olympians don’t get to talk on the podium. I did.

I dedicated my award first and foremost to Holly — my photographer, hunting partner and most of all, my best friend.

But I also dedicated it to Tama Matsuoka and Eddy LeRoux, to Jesse Griffiths and Kirk Lombard and Steven Rinella — and to all the hunters, anglers, foragers and lovers of wild food out there. To you.

Without you Hunter Angler Gardener Cook would not exist. You, HAGC Nation, make me strong, and for that I am eternally grateful. This one’s for all of us!

66 responses to “My Olympic Medal”

  1. Max

    Congrats Hank, this award has been a long time coming! I’ve been preaching about your great recipes to anyone who will listen for over a year now, but I think the overall attitude you convey about conservationism and respect for the land (and animals) is equally if not more important. I can’t wait for Duck Duck Goose (already preordered), and am hoping to meet you this fall on the book tour! Happy hunting!

  2. Katie

    You deserve it! I love this blog!

  3. Sharon

    Love your blog and books…

  4. Lionel

    Great news Hank. Well done.

  5. Matt

    Cheers Hank! Well deserved. Please carry on with more of the same…

  6. Lou

    Attaboy. Well deserved!


  7. phanmo


  8. Ed

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful news!!!

  9. Karen

    Congratulations… well deserved!

  10. J.R. Young

    Hank, this is well deserved and I can’t tell you how happy for you I am. Throughout the weekend whether it was a facebook post, a tweet or anything that referenced your win on social media I had a huge smile on my face.

    I can’t imagine how awesome it must feel.

  11. Sarah | The Cyclist's Wife

    This is awesome!! Congratulations.

  12. Irina @ wandercrush

    That is absolutely incredible. You’re such an inspiration for blog-beginners like me! Congratulations!

  13. Sporting Days

    Way to go Hank! So happy for you. Had a hunch third time would be a charm 🙂

  14. Warren A. Dennis

    Congratulations! I’ve loved your blog since stumbling on it a few years ago. It’s great to see you getting the reconition that many of us, your fans, think you deserve. Well done!

  15. Broderick @ Savory Exposure

    Congrats, my friend!

  16. Mike

    Congratulations Hank!
    Thank you for bringing us along for the ride.

  17. Noah

    Congrats Hank! Well do e!

  18. Nicole Novak

    We could not be more thrilled for your inevitable win!!

  19. Andrew Howell

    I’m consistently amazed by the amount of hard work and originality you put into this blog. You most definitely earned this one!

  20. N.R. Jenzen-Jones

    Well done mate, an excellent result!

  21. Tim Vidra

    Great stuff Hank! Congrats!

  22. Ray T. Masterson

    It was your night Hank. You are the best and deserve the best award there is. Congratulations.

  23. j. toufic chahin

    Congratulations, your inspired writing has brought me back to the roots (no pun intended!) of my family. One where we all grew up hunting, fishing and foraging not necessarily to live but to enjoy what nature is sharing with us. Thank you for your wonderful writing and descriptions as to why we each need to consider the “wild larder” around us, the award is definitely well deserved!

  24. Jeff English

    Awesome! Congrats! You deserve it for sure.
    Thanks for all you do.

  25. mike

    Congratulations and t-hanks for representing…

  26. Flint

    While there’s no shame in being a ‘Susan Lucci’ this is a well deserved recognition. Congratulations.

  27. Trish

    You’ve taught this city gal so much with your words, your pictures and your honest approach to all of nature’s bounty. You have earned this award; congratulations!

  28. Cook In / Dine Out

    Heartfelt congratulations on your award, and a nice write-up of your experience being there. I love your line “I felt like I was levitating as I went to the stage.” I’m sure it must have been surreal.

  29. Celeste

    How fantastic for you, and what a validation of your work. I’m happy the judges finally gave you what you deserved!

  30. Val Dolcini

    Congratulations, Hank. A very well-deserved honor. You’re an important, entertaining, and wonderfully articulate, voice on a whole range of local and regional food issues. Keep the conversation going strong!

  31. Guy B.

    Love what you do, do what you love! Keep it up and we promise to try and keep up. Thanks for the Blog.

  32. M Timmons

    Hank, I bow graciously before your greatness. Great job!

  33. Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore

    Congrats, Hank!

  34. Tom Kelly

    Kudos to the cook! I live in Wisconsin where the morels are in the woods in front of the house and the deer in the back yard so not only do I just read the blog and recipes I put them into practice. Thanks so much for doing what you are doing.

  35. Jeff Holberg

    Congratulations, well deserved!

  36. Joe Rougon

    Great news! Congratulations!

  37. Beck S.

    This is awesome news! Congrats to you and Holly. I was making your ramp pickles and pesto (real favorites here) today- when your message arrived. What a fantastic coincidence. Here’s to you and many more adventures to share.

  38. Nichole

    Congrats & thank you for all the love and hard work you put into your blog/books!

  39. Patricia Skorupa

    Congratulations! How wonderful, and how well deserved.

  40. Denise Delgado

    Yeah Hank!!!! Excellent! Congrats. We only cook our ducks and geese ‘A LA HANK’ in our house. Keep up the great work. We’re on your release-date book list for you new one, coming soon. Can’t Wait!

    Denise Delgado
    Sacramento, Calif.

  41. Leda Meredith

    Congratulations! So very well deserved!

  42. Matse

    I’m glad to see you are receiving the recognition you deserve. Thank you so much for all that you share. Congratulations!

  43. Beck S.

    This is awesome news! Congratulations to you and Holly. Here’s to adventures and entertainment!

    By the way, this announcement reached me as I was canning two kinds of ramp pickles and a big batch of ramp pesto. Thanks for the great recipes!!

  44. Ricardo Rodríguez

    Congratulations Hank! Well deserved for all the good work and heart you put in it. Hopefully it is the first of many other recognitions to come.

  45. Jack

    Congratulations from the British Isles also. I have followed your hunting, foraging and cooking (and Holly’s photo’s) with great enjoyment and admiration.

  46. Duke

    Awesome award Hank – great job!

  47. Marcia Luick

    This is really exciting. I always knew you, Holly and your blog were special. I love turning people on to you. Congratulations!!

  48. UlrikeDG


  49. Will K.


  50. Mirra

    Congratulations Hank!!!! So well deserved. Wish we could have been there to see it all go down and celebrate it with you.

  51. Marsha

    Congratulations Hank and Holly! Your faithful readers have always put you on top of the podium! Keep up the good work.

  52. RobbieAnn Montgomery

    YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! About time you got public recognition for things that your legions of fans have known for years!!!!

  53. Janine

    Congratulations….thanks to you many of us have rediscovered the wild foods we grew up with when hunting and gathering was a normal activity even for city dwellers.

  54. Jamie Reilly

    so awesome.

    was in gotham hall a year ago for some advertising awards. neat building. I’m glad you had a chance to eat your way through NYC, and so stoked that you brought home some new neckwear. cheers.


  55. Alejandro

    Congratulation! Well deserved award. Your fans from Mexicali, Mexico

  56. Jim Collin

    Well deserved for sure and a trill for us followers and some-times field partners. Very cool! I hope you worn the medal all night!

  57. Dianne Jacob

    Okay I’m late, but at least I congratulated you right away on Twitter. I was watching!

    No one covers your subject with as much passion and rigor. Congratulations.

  58. Larder Keeper

    A big congrats. I have only been reading your blog for a few months but really enjoy the originality and authentic-ness (no awards for my writing!). While I live in Australia and am not a wild foodie, I really enjoy it all the more in a weirdly vicarious way.

  59. Beth and David Enggren

    Very strong work, very well done. congratulations!

  60. glenn brank

    Congrats, and long overdue this is. I only wish that you had worn a camo tux for the event, but then, there will be other awards to come. So make a note that you will need shiny patent leather boots, too. And of course, behind every successful male hunter is a woman (saying, “aim higher, and tto the left.”) So congrats to Holly, too. Hope we can connect sometime soon, I have a project that I hope will not involve blowing shotgun blasts thru the hull of my kayak…Cheers, gb

  61. deana

    So many kudos… so well deserved. You have a vision and a mission and a passion for both. That makes for one compelling blog.

  62. Congratulations to Sacramento’s Frank Fat’s, Winner of James Beard America’s Classics Award |

    […] amalgamations of Sacramento food writers and media personalities including Hank Shaw (also a winner of a James Beard award this year), Kitty O’Neal, Tina Macuha, Sarah Singleton, Chris Macias, and Chef Michael Tuohy […]

  63. Val

    Well done Hank! You had it long coming, I’m so glad you got a Beard at last. Congratulations, sir!

  64. Dan

    Well deserved!! Congratulations Hank!

  65. Leeann Lavin

    Congratulations! You wear that medal well! You are an inspiration…

  66. jimmy

    You deserve it Hank. Your site is really one of the best for actual learning (not just pretty pictures and zany recipe ideas) – I look forward to it and reference it frequently. Congratulations.

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