In journalism school, you learn quickly how dangerous it is to say someone is the "first" person to do anything.
The moment you think about putting something like that in print, those who have gone before emerge quickly. That's why I was skeptical that Adam Hegsted was going to be the first chef from this area to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. And despite being told that a couple of times during my reporting for the story in today's Food section, I was hesitant to write it.
I also didn't want to overlook an important detail.
So, I sent an email to the James Beard Foundation inqiring. The response:
"Thank you for checking in. I have checked our records, and chef Adam is indeed the first chef from the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area to cook at the Beard House. He will also be the first chef from the state of Idaho to be featured here."
Turns out, that's not true at all.
At least two other area chefs have been honored by the James Beard House.
Executive chef Rod Jessick, of the Coeur d'Alene Resort, cooked there in 1999 and received another invitation in 2003 or 2004.
Also, chef Brian Hutchins, who works at Stix in Spokane, cooked at the James Beard House in 2003.
Several other Idaho chefs were part of the events. Here's a partial list of those chefs. I'm still trying to track down the information: Keith Otter, Ketchum, Idaho; Scott Wamsley, Sun Valley Lodge; Barbara Barry, Ketchum, Idaho; Joyce Doughty and Kenny Rudolph, Ketchum, Idaho.
Today, when I forwarded messages from both Rod Jessick and Brian Hutchins to the James Beard Foundation, they wrote back: "Our apologies for the misinformation here. Our in-house archives are unfortunately not as accurate as they should be, and we are in the process of addressing this issue. Chef Jessick was indeed correct about the Idaho-based chefs he mentioned who have cooked at the Beard House. We were able to track down the event links to provide you with more information..."
"In addition to these events, we also hosted a “Taste of Idaho” dinner on 2/3/1998 with chefs Barbara Barry, Joyce Doughty, Keith Otter, and Scott Wamsley, however, this predates our electronic archives."
The chefs who called and wrote were incredibly gracious about the mistake, but I still feel terrible for making it. I would hate for the oversight to minimize the work that it takes to get to the James Beard House.
Rod Jessick said in a email message: "It is a great honor to participate and a lot of work... I look back fondly on the memories of the event I participated in," he said. "I intend to email Adam and wish him 'Good Cooking' at his event. Again, he is a very talented chef and will represent both the Coeur d’Alene Casino and the State of Idaho well."