The James Beard Awards once more descend upon Chicago this Monday and with them come hundreds of chefs, bartenders, bakers, and more. Even though most are only in town for a few days, they have big plans to take in as much of Chicago's food and beverage scene as possible. We asked this year's nominees which restaurants and bars are on their hit list, so you can spend the weekend rubbing shoulders with famous chefs.
Who: Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles
Nominated for: Outstanding Chef
Where to find her: Snaggletooth, Dove's Luncheonette, and Duck Duck Goat
"My business partner Caroline Styne has never been to Chicago, so I'm looking forward to checking out some new spots with her but also spending a gluttonous evening of sausages and oysters at The Publican with Caroline, my husband David, my chef de cuisine Javier Espinoza, our general manager Julie Grimm, and director of operations Cynthia Longley."
Who: Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton of Ox in Portland, Ore.
Nominated for: Best Chef Northwest
Where to find them: Fat Rice, Parachute, and The Aviary
"We were nominated for the same award last year, so we got a chance to visit then. We loved Chicago! We didn't have much time to do any sightseeing but all the food and drink spots we went to were fantastic. We made it to Next, Aviary, Grace, and Au Cheval."
Who: Renee Erickson of The Whale Wins in Seattle
Nominated for: Best Chef Northwest
Where to find her: Parachute and Lost Lake
"Parachute has really delicious and unique food. Lost Lake is just a fun place, delicious and big cocktails that go so well with the spicy American-Chinese food next door." (Note: Thank You Chinese closed due to fire and it looks like it will remain closed for months.)
Who: Karen Akunowicz of Myers + Chang in Boston
Nominated for: Best Chef Northeast
Where to find her: Ruxbin
"We — Joanne Chang, Christopher Myers, and my spouse LJ Johnson — are having dinner at Ruxbin while we are in town, and we are trying to get to Parachute and Girl & The Goat as well. Too many amazing restaurants, not enough time!"
Who: Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St. Paul, Minn.
Nominated for: Best Chef Midwest
Where to find him: Topolobampo, avec, The Publican, and Al's Italian Beef
"I have been to Chicago many times going back to the late 1970s. Back then, I usually hit the blues and jazz clubs, and I was always sure not to miss the latest exhibits in the many museums and galleries. If the Cubs are playing, there is nothing like a day game at Wrigley Field. The only thing that's changed for me some 40 years later is how many things I can squeeze into one day before exhaustion sets in. I am looking forward to exhausting myself."
Who: Isaac Toups of Toups' Meatery in New Orleans
Nominated for: Best Chef South
Where to find him: Little Goat
"I am a protein-driven chef, so I am looking forward to trying Stephanie Izard's many variations on goat. My wife and I are having lunch with my fellow 'Top Chef' competitor and James Beard finalist, Karen Akunowicz and her partner at Little Goat."
Who: Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow in Atlanta
Nominated for: Best Chef Southeast
Where to find him: Ruxbin, Girl & The Goat, The Publican, and Johnnie's Beef
"I really want to try some of the places that are further outside of the city center, but I never have a car. I am a total sucker for old school nostalgia, so if someone wants to give me a ride I am happy to buy us lunch at Gene and Jude's and then dessert at the Original Rainbow Cone."
Who: Hugo Ortega of Caracol in Houston
Nominated for: Best Chef Southwest
Where to find him: Monteverde, Girl & The Goat, and Cemitas Puebla
"[I was] In Chicago last year for the awards and loved Nico, Blackbird, Topolobampo, NAHA and many others. [This year, I'm looking forward to] Monteverde, because Sarah Grueneberg worked in Houston for Brennan's; Girl & The Goat for its well-handled vegetables; and Cemitas Puebla rustic Mexican and beautiful patio."
Who: Matt Rudofker of Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York City
Nominated for: Rising Star Chef of the Year
Where to find him: Au Cheval, The Publican, and avec
"If I have some time, I would really like to check out Yusho. I spent the majority of my cooking career in fine dining, but I'm now most interested in delicious food at an approachable price point. Yusho is a spot that a few people have recommended. I'd also like to stop by Frontera Grill. It's a legendary place that I haven't had the chance to try yet."
Who: Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Café in Boston
Nominated for: Outstanding Baker
Where to find her: Oriole and Maple & Ash
"I have former bakers who work [at Oriole and Maple & Ash]. Parachute sounds amazing and we are always looking for great Asian restaurants."
Who: Jennifer Yee of Lafayette in New York City
Nominated for: Outstanding Pastry Chef
Where to find her: Fat Rice and Au Cheval
"My first time [to Chicago] was a 36-hour fly-through with drinks at Aviary, dinner at Alinea, after-dinner drinks at Big Star, dancing at a random club, then late-night hot dogs at Jim's Original. Second time it was a long weekend, and we basically took a tour through Paul Kahan's empire. I also had amazing doughnuts at Firecakes and some insane burger at Au Cheval. I definitely want to continue exploring the doughnut scene, and also get good ice cream. I've never had an edible, but I'm so curious to try Mindy Segal's."
Who: Ti Martin of Commander's Palace in New Orleans
Nominated for: Outstanding Wine Program
Where to find her: Sepia, Maple & Ash, and Duck Duck Goat
"We're looking forward to Duck Duck Goat and we'd love to try The Aviary, but we can't get a reservation. We've heard that Sepia has an excellent wine list that we must try! I am also looking forward to another When Lonesome Doves Cry rye cocktail at Maple & Ash."
Who: Will Elliott of Maison Premiere in New York City
Nominated for: Outstanding Bar Program
Where to find him: Aviary and Next, The Violet Hour, Lost Lake and GreenRiver
"We were nominated finalists at the James Beard Awards last year, and Chicago really poured out so much heart and soul for their first year hosting the awards. Big Star and Violet Hour are a power duo, obviously. Also, we had a blast with all the good folk from The Purple Pig!"