Sure there's James Beard. And Michelin. And a slew of other more nationally focused outlets that recognize chef greatness. But the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence is the only ceremony that focuses its attention exclusively on chefs in the Chicago area. The nominees for the 14th annual event just came out and, while there aren't huge surprises, it's certainly a doozy of a list.
Members of the Chicago restaurant community are nominated in nine categories ranging from celebrity chef (Curtis Duffy, Graham Elliot, Stephanie Izard, Tony Mantuano) to rising chef (Jimmy Bannos, Jr., Jason McLeod, Jonathan Beatty, Chris Pandel). Awards will be handed out during a gala celebration at the Fairmont Hotel on Jan. 28 that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event showcases 40 of Chicago's top chefs and mixologists preparing dishes in a walk-around setting. Individual tickets cost $400 (they raised more than $400,000 last year), but if you have deep pockets and want to give more, you certainly can.
The event will definitely be a splashy affair (we did mention tickets are 400 bucks, right?!), but the likelihood of it selling out is high. So who might you see there? Check out the list of nominees.
The 2010 Jean Banchet Award for Culinary Excellence Nominees include:
· Celebrity Chef: Curtis Duffy, Avenues; Graham Elliot, Graham Elliot; Stephanie Izard, The Girl & the Goat; Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia
· Celebrity Pastry Chef: Patrick Fahy, Blackbird; Stephanie Prida, Ria; Toni Roberts, C-House; Mindy Segal, Hot Chocolate
· Chef-de-Cuisine: Brian Enyart, Topolobampo; Koren Grieveson, Avec; Ryan LaRoche, NoMI; David Posey, Blackbird
· Rising Chef: Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig; Jonathan Beatty, Davanti Enoteca; Jason McLeod, Ria; Chris Pandel, The Bristol
· Rising Pastry Chef: Todd Feitl, Prasino; Meg Galus, Café des Architectes; Amanda Rockman, The Bristol; Leticia Zenteno, Ceres’ Table
· Best Sommelier: Steven W. Alexander, Spiaggia; Chad Ellegood, Tru; Rachael Lowe, Sixteen; Dan Pilkey, Ria
· Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Kith & Kin, Andrew Brochu; Nightwood, Jason Hammel; Prairie Grass Café, Sarah Stegner & George Bumbaris; Sprout, Dale Levitski
· Best Fine Dining: Alinea, Grant Achatz; Avenues, Curtis Duffy; Ria, Jason McLeod; Sixteen, Frank Brunacci
· Best Catering Company: Berghoff Catering, Levy Restaurants, Limelight Catering, Tasty Catering
Photo: Tony Mantuano and Curtis Duffy