After five consecutive years vying for the James Beard Award title of Best Chef: Southeast, Miller Union chef and co-owner Steven Satterfield took home a coveted medal at an award ceremony Monday night in Chicago. CONTRIBUTED BY HUGE GALDONES FOR THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION

'Magical night' for Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield, James Beard winner

Steven Satterfield is a James Beard Foundation award winner. Finally.

After five consecutive years vying for the title of Best Chef: Southeast, Satterfield — the chef and co-owner of Atlanta’s Miller Union — took home a coveted Beard medal at the James Beard Foundation award ceremony Monday night in Chicago.

The ceremony, akin to the Oscars of the culinary world, celebrated the accomplishments of chefs and restaurants throughout the U.S.

Satterfield called the win “shocking.” “I think because I’ve gone five years in a row, I was getting used to them calling someone else’s name,” he said. “You never know who’s going to win.”

But when fellow Atlanta chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano opened the envelope, it was Satterfield’s name that she read. That Quatrano, whom Satterfield considers a mentor and colleague, was the one to put the medal around his neck was especially moving for him.

While he found the thought of making an acceptance speech “maddening,” when Satterfield reached the stage, he found the words to express his pride in the Miller Union team. “You can’t have a restaurant without the whole group,” he said.

Satterfield was a finalist in the category along with Atlanta chef Ryan Smith of Staplehouse, Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky., John Fleer of Rhubarb in Asheville, N.C., and cooking duo Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis, Tenn.

Finalists had been pared down earlier this year from a group that also included a number Atlanta chefs: Ri Liu of Masterpiece, Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow and Revival and Billy Allin of Cakes & Ale and Bread and Butterfly.

Satterfield is no newbie to nominations. His Miller Union was also in the running this year as a Beard finalist for Outstanding Wine Program. And his cookbook “Root to Leaf” was nominated last year for a Beard photography book award.

“It’s astonishing,” said Satterfield of the numerous recent accolades. “When we were planning on opening a restaurant eight years ago, we had no idea we’d be on this kind of national level. It’s very humbling. And when you stop and take a look at everything we’ve accomplished, it’s amazing.”

He celebrated the victory by popping the cork on a magnum of bubbly Champagne with friends, then headed to after-parties in the Windy City.

“It’s just a magical night. You’re walking around with a medal around your neck. Even people who don’t know you are saying congratulations,” he said.

Atlanta saw a second nod at the Beard awards when design firm Meyer Davis was handed a restaurant design award for its design of restaurateur Ford Fry’s St. Cecilia in Buckhead.

In addition, at the Foundation’s media awards held last week, Atlanta resident Bill Addison took home a dining and travel writing award. The Eater editor and critic won for his Eater piece titled “I Want Crab. Pure Maryland Crab.”

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