On Wednesday morning, the James Beard Foundation released its semifinalists — the so-called “long list” — and Chicago restaurants, bars, chefs, and beverage professionals nabbed 19 nominations. That number is six fewer compared to the 25 semifinalists named in 2019. The awards ceremony will again take place at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, this time on May 4. The Beards will continue to take place in Chicago through at least through 2027.
This year’s Chicago nominee highlights include Best New Restaurant nods for Thattu — the Indian food stall inside Politan Row — and Tzuco, Carlos Gaytán’s follow-up to Mexique. Meanwhile, Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde earned another nomination for Outstanding Chef (she won in 2017), Boka in Lincoln Park was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant, and Alisha Elenz of MFK. and Bar Biscay was named on the Rising Star Chef of the Year list. Other nominees include repeat semifinalist Lost Lake for Outstanding Bar Program, Spiaggia for Outstanding Wine Program, and Emily Spurlin of Lula Cafe for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Virtue chef Erick Williams also also earned a Best Chef: Great Lakes nomination. He continues to rack up acclaim in Hyde Park; Virtue is an Eater National Best New Restaurant for 2019.
In bit of surprise, Yūgen pastry chef Jeanine Lamadieu earned a nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year. She’s no longer with the West Loop Japanese restaurant. It’s also noteworthy that a pastry chef earned a nomination in that category.
The list will be whittled down on March 25 as that’s when the 2020 finalists will be announced. This is the smallest group of Chicago-based semifinalists in some time — 28 were named in 2018, and there were 31 the prior year. This may be a result of the foundation’s newly focused attention on geographic diversity, as Chicago has a history of overshadowing others in the “Great Lakes” category. An example of this could be Best Chef Great Lakes nominee Abra Berens (Granor Farm). Interestingly, she worked at Local Foods, off the Elston Industrial Corridor, before moving to Michigan.
Head over to Eater National for the long list from around the country. This year’s Chicago nominations are below.
(* denotes a repeated nominee from past years).
Best New Restaurant
Outstanding Bar Program
*Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Emily Spurlin, Lula Cafe
Outstanding Wine Program
Rising Star Chef of the Year
*Alisha Elenz, MFK and Bar Biscay
Jeanine Lamadieu, Yūgen
Best Chef: Great Lakes
*Thai Dang, HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen
*Brian Jupiter, Frontier
Gene Kato, Momotaro
*Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe
*Ethan Pikas, Cellar Door Provisions
*John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth
Mariya Russell, Kikkō
Erick Williams, Virtue
*Noah Sandoval, Oriole
*Lee Wolen, Boka
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.