The chef’s paean to the versatile bird took home the coveted award in the restaurant and professional category

“I couldn’t have been more shocked. It felt not real to me.” This was Matt Abergel’s reaction to having been crowned the winner in the Restaurant and Professional category for the 2019 James Beard Foundation Book Awards. His first book, Chicken and Charcoal, is a love letter to yakitori—but also the peculiarities of Hong Kong restaurant life; the nerdy, technical details of bird butchery; and that unmistakeable, individualistic style that has catapulted the Yardbird brand into the international spotlight.

The book, which came out in May 2018, beat out two others in the same category: Rich Table, by Evan Rich and Sarah Rich of the eponymous San Francisco restaurant, and From the Earth: World’s Great, Rare and Almost Forgotten Vegetables by Peter Gilmore of the iconic Sydney stalwart, Quay.

“I was so grateful to be in New York at the time,” says Abergel, who managed to accept the award in person. “And I’m so proud to have my whole team, family and friends in the making of that book. It really was a village of people that made it happen.”

Chicken and Charcoal is published by Phaidon