The crowd was at ease this year in Chicago as the James Beard Awards took place at the Lyric Opera house for the third consecutive year. Chicago won two awards—Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo for Outstanding Restaurant and Monteverde chef Sarah Grueneberg for Best Chef: Great Lakes. The awards will remain in Chicago through 2021, and Chicago’s restaurant world was relaxed in knowing that the awards weren’t going to bounce to a different city next year. Last year, guests pondered the Beards’ future with San Francisco and Texas bandied about as possible sites for the gala.
Grueneberg put Chicago on the board with her win. She was ecstatic, and said she didn’t plan a speech: “It’s a crapshoot I think,” she said. Watch a post-award interview below.
Grueneberg was already offering advise to Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez, winners of Best Chef: Northwest, a half hour after earning that medallion. “Enjoy the ride,” she told the duo after clapping her hands hysterically. “Oh my god, I’m so happy for you guys.” She showed off some dance moves later that night behind the bar at Leña Brava, celebrating with fellow Beard winner Bayless at his Randolph Street restaurant. Bayless walked around like he owned the place, which he does.
It was a different scene for Grace’s Curtis Duffy. He was a presenter this year after taking home Best Chef: Great Lakes last year, the same award Grueneberg won on Monday. When asked what may be next for him he suggested opening two or three new restaurants when the time was right.
Leña Brava, Roister, Girl & the Goat, and Big Star all hosted afterparties. Check out Eater Chicago’s photos from the scene last night, from the red carpet to the gala to the food offerings and more.