It's that time of year for the nominee announcement of the Jean Banchet Awards, the highest culinary award in Chicago. The 2014 nominees, which were made official this morning, include a host of familiar faces and restaurants with some newcomers mixed in.
The Boka revamp under chef Lee Wolen picked up the most highlights, including chef of the year (Lee Wolen), restaurant of the year, best restaurant design, best restaurant service, and rising pastry chef of the year (Genie Kwon). 42 Grams is nominated for best new restaurant and rising chef of the year. And L20, which is closing on New Year's Eve, is nominated for restaurant of the year.
This year's nomination process included a public vote for the first time. Read through all the nominees below; the winners will be announced at a gala on January 30.
2014 Jean Banchet Nominees:
Chef of the year: Abraham Conlon (Fat Rice), Thomas Lents (Sixteen), Chris Pandel (The Bristol/Balena), Lee Wolen (Boka)
Pastry chef of the year: Dana Cree (Blackbird), Claire Crenshaw (Moto), Meg Galus (NoMI), Greg Mosko (North Pond)
Best chef de cuisine: Chris Marchino (Spiaggia), Ali Ratcliffe-Bauer (Brindille), John Vermiglio (A10), Erling Wu-Bower (Nico Osteria)
Rising chef of the year: Ashlee Aubin (Salero), Jake Bickelhaupt (42 Grams), Noah Sandoval (Senza), Nathan Sears (The Radler)
Rising pastry chef of the year: Sarah Koechling (The Bristol/Balena), Genie Kwon (Boka/GT Fish and Oyster), Megan Miller (Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse), Jonathan Ory (Bad Wolf Coffee)
Best sommelier: Charles Ford (The Bristol), Arthur Hon (Sepia), Elizabeth Mendez (Vera), Dan Pilkey (Sixteen at Trump)
Best mixologist: Alex Bachman (Billy Sunday), Bradley Bolt (Bar Deville/Revel Room), Mike Ryan (Sable Kitchen & Bar), Krissy Schutte (CH Distillery)
Best restaurant design: Boka, Celeste, Momotaro, The Radler
Best restaurant service: Boka, Embeya, Senza, Sixteen at Trump
Best new restaurant: 42 Grams, Parachute, TÊTE Charcuterie, Salero
Best neighborhood restaurant: A10, Dusek's, Owen and Engine, La Sirena Clandestina
Restaurant of the year: L20, Boka, El Ideas, Moto