Chicago’s restaurant owners and workers hope that 2019 is a better year for the city at the James Beard Foundation Awards, as last year the city collectively took home only one. That’s despite hosting the awards, which will again take place at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, this time on May 6. This morning, the Beard Foundation released its semifinalists and Chicago restaurants, bars, chefs, and beverage professionals nabbed 25.
This year’s Chicago nomination highlights include Kyoten and Passerotto for Best New Restaurant (the latter of whose chef Jennifer Kim won the Eater Award for Chicago’s chef of the year), Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde for Outstanding Chef, North Pond for Outstanding Restaurant, and Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm of Boka Restaurant Group are once again semifinalists for Outstanding Restaurateur. Other nominees include Lost Lake, Meg Galus of Boka, and Alisha Enz of MFK. The 2019 finalists will be announced on March 27.
Notable first-time nominees include Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse. It’s the first time the venerable Chicago mini-chain has received a nod, and its for Outstanding Service. Stephanie Hart of Brown Sugar Bakery on the South Side also received recognition in the Outstanding Baker category. Brian Jupiter of Frontier in Noble Square also netted his first nominations in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category.
Last year the city grabbed 28 semifinalists on the “long list” versus 31 in 2017. Only one semifinalist — Fat Rice chef/owner Abe Conlon for Best Chef: Great Lakes — went on to win an award in 2018.
The outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel administration have claimed luring the Beards from New York as one of its biggest accomplishments. The timing of the release of the nominations, the day after the Chicago mayoral election, coincides with the fact that the city now knows Emanuel will be replaced by either Lori Lightfoot or Toni Preckwinckle. The April mayoral runoff comes before the awards. The Beards will continue to take place in Chicago through at least through 2027.
This year’s Chicago nominations are below (* denotes a repeated nominee from past years). Head over to Eater National for the long list from around the country.
Best New Restaurant
Stephanie Hart, Brown Sugar Bakery
*Greg Wade, Publican Quality Bread
Outstanding Bar Program
Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde
Outstanding Pastry Chef
*Meg Galus, Boka
*Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm, Boka Restaurant Group
Outstanding Wine Program
Rising Star Chef of the Year
Alisha Elenz, MFK
Best Chef: Great Lakes
Thai Dang and Danielle Dang, HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen
*Diana Dávila, Mi Tocaya Antojería
*Paul Fehribach, Big Jones
*Jason Hammel, Lula Café
Brian Jupiter, Frontier
*Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, Parachute
Ethan Pikas, Cellar Door Provisions
*David Posey and Anna Posey, Elske
*Iliana Regan, Kitsune
*Noah Sandoval, Oriole
*Lee Wolen, Boka
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.