The James Beard Foundation Awards are just around the corner, and Chicago’s hospitality community is ready to celebrate the industry. The event brings celebrated chefs from across the country to the Windy City and many are stepping into local kitchens to host parties, meals, and takeovers stacked with gourmet fare. Not all events are Beards-related, but all take place around the awards ceremony on Monday, May 6 and include notable industry figures in town for the events.
Pre-Beards festivities include James Beard Eats Week from Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association, which runs from April 26 to May 6. More than 100 Chicago chefs create dishes or menus inspired by pioneering chef James Beard. A list of participating restaurants and dishes is available here. The Kitchen, for example, is offering duck two ways: a pan seared breast and confit leg with asparagus salad, rhubarb, charred ramps, and pickled carrots.
Saturday, May 4
— Pastry chef and past Beard nominee Pichet Ong of Washington D.C.’s Brothers and Sisters is hosting afternoon tea at Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Ong will provide a selection of cakes, and diners can drink tea with alcohol or without. A punch cocktail by Broken Shaker’s DJ Dodd will also be offered. Tickets can be purchased here for $35.
— The staff of iconic New York restaurant Gramercy Tavern (a nine-time Beard award winner) will take over the kitchen at Boka from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Chefs Mike Anthony and Lee Wolen and pastry chefs Miro Uskokovic and Meg Galus will serve an eight-course menu highlighting favorite dishes from both restaurants. Tickets, available here, are $165 each and include optional beverage pairings.
— The Iconoclast Dinner Experience, an event series that champions chefs of color, and 2019 Best Chef: Southeast nominee Mashama Bailey (Eater 2017 Restaurant of the Year the Grey) are inviting the public to the IDE All-Star Culinary Bash at Chicago’s Viking Showroom in the Merchandise Mart from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
For $100, diners can enjoy bottomless wine, Heaven Hill spirits, and small plates from Bailey, Gregory Gourdet of Portland’s Departure (former Top Chef contestant, 2019 Best Chef Semifinalist: Northwest), Gabriel Hernández Febo (Verde Mesa in San Jan, Puerto Rico), Jerome Grant (Washington D.C.’s Sweet Home Cafe, 2019 Best Chef Semifinalist: Mid-Atlantic), and Ilma Lopez (Piccolo in Portland, Maine). Tickets are available here.
— Ong is due for a long day, and will be back at Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. offering a menu created in collaboration with celebrated chef Erik Bruner-Yang (Spoken English, Brothers and Sisters, Maketto) and cocktails by Todd Thrasher (Tiki TNT). The entry is free so click here for details.
Sunday, May 5
— Eden chef Devon Quinn will offer “Beard, Bubbles, Bloodys and Bacon” brunch specials inspired by Beard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Diners can choose from a selection of sparkling wines and Bloody Marys. Reservations are available online.
— Sunda founder Billy Dec and executive chef and partner Michael Morales are throwing a “James Beard Brunch Bash” to mark the awards and the restaurant’s 10-year anniversary from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The menu will celebrate Filipino cuisine, drawing on Dec and Morales’s cultural heritage. The $50 tickets are available here.
— Three Dots and a Dash’s annual “tiki luau” and pig roast is back, and beverage director Kevin Beary is bringing in esteemed bartenders from venues like Georgia’s Kimball House, New York’s Dead Rabbit and Leyenda, Baba Au Rum from Athens, Greece, and La Factoria in Puerto Rico, to serve original cocktails. The event, which includes live entertainment, runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and the $50 tickets, available here, include drinks and light bites.
— Shake Shack, Bang Bang Pie Shop, and Boka will throw a fourth annual “Backyard BBQ” at Boka from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Diners can try a rare preview of Shake Shack’s Chick’n Parm Sandwich, and Boka’s Lee Wolen will serve fried chicken sandwiches from sister restaurant Somerset. The staff of Bang Bang Pie and Boka’s Meg Galus will provide canapes and sweet bites. Tickets are available here for $50.
— The Izakaya at Momotaro will celebrate the Beards by hosting Suzanne Cupps (Untitled at the Whitney), who will join Momotaro chef Gene Kato in the kitchen to create several stations of Japanese cuisine from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The $75 fee covers food (stations and passed appetizers) and drinks from an open bar. Tickets are available here.
— Chefs from essential San Juan, Puerto Rico restaurant La Factoría will host a pop up with a mysterious menu takeover at Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Entry is free and more details are available here.
— Atlanta bar and 2019 Outstanding Bar Program finalist Ticonderoga Club staff will take over Golden Teardrops, the basement bar at Lonesome Rose in Logan Square. From 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., the crew will offer a special cocktail, beer, and cider menu, as well as pours from their custom Plantation Rum barrel.
— The Violet Hour will welcome an all-star cast of noteworthy bartenders from across America starting at 10 p.m. at the Wicker Park bar. Staff from Atlanta-area bars Kimball House and Ticonderoga Club will take over from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., followed by Chicago’s own Lost Lake and San Francisco’s Bar Agricole from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. After midnight, staff from New Orleans’s Cure and Arnaud’s French 75 will be behind the stick. Each bar will offer a signature draft cocktail. Cure executive chef Alfredo Nogueira (also of Cane & Table) will craft Caribbean-inspired snacks like beef empanadas and crab croquettes.
Monday, May 6
— A pre-awards brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lost Lake will feature dishes from Beard nominees Jessica Koslow of Sqirl in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe, Brooks Headly of New York’s Superiority Burger, Camille Cogswell of Zahav in Philadelphia, Washington D.C.’s Tom Cunanan of Bad Saint, and Anna and David Posey of Elske. Tickets are available here for $75.
— Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago will bring in three women cocktail makers from its sister restaurants in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Christine Wiseman, Courtney Lane, and Yoli Baez will serve their creations from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Jimmy Leblon, chef at Broken Shaker Miami, will take over the menu. Entry is free for this event.
— Bar Fight Club will be back to kick off the second Chicago Style cocktail conference at Fulton Market Kitchen immediately after the awards ceremony from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The competitive event designed to celebrate creativity, hospitality, and community will include competitors from bars including New York’s Existing Conditions, Chicago’s Good Measure, Johnny’s Gold Brick in Houston, Austin, Texas’ Nickel City, Toronto bar PrettyUgly, and True Laurel in San Francisco. One hundred percent of proceeds will go to Chicago Style’s charity partners, including the James Beard Foundation Women’s Leadership Program and the Chicago Period Project. Tickets are available here for $20.
Tuesday, May 7
— The second Chicago Style cocktail conference sessions will commence at the Ace Hotel and run through May 9. The women-led “think and drink” gathering aims to highlight diverse voices speaking out on the state of the industry locally, nationally, and internationally. The event culminates in a pop up called Zombie Lyan that is open to the public. Seminar tickets that cost $60 per day are available here.
— Paul Kahan (2004 Best Chef: Great Lakes, 2013 Outstanding Chef) of One Off Hospitality is bringing in friend and 2019 Outstanding Chef nominee Marc Vetri (Vetri, Vetri Cucina) into the kitchen at Avec for a West Loop pizza party from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The price of admission ($35) includes slices lifted from Vetri’s new book on pizza making, such as the “Lombarda” with fennel sausage, bitto cheese, and a sunny side up egg. Diners can also enjoy wine, beer, and cocktails, like the classic Aperol spritz. Tickets cost $35 and are available here.
— All-women bartending competition Speed Rack will host the national finals of its eighth US competition season at Morgan MFG. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the $30 ticket (available here) covers boozy punch and light fare from unnamed local restaurants. This year’s local contenders include Andrea Kloehn of Lost Lake and Marina Holter of the Whistler.