The Jean Banchet Awards, Chicago’s top awards for the city’s chefs, restaurants, and bars not given out by a media company, on Wednesday released its list of nominees for the 2022 awards. Like the James Beard Foundation Awards, which announced its collection of semifinalists in late February, the Banchet Awards did not name any winners in 2021.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its profound impact on both the restaurant industry and dining culture, the local awards have introduced a new category: Best Alternative Dining. It’s a noteworthy change that indicates a broader, more inclusive understanding of hospitality in Chicago. The new category’s nominees are the Hot Dog Box, the playful shipping container-turned-restaurant with locations in Bronzeville and Portage Park; Japanese-American pop-up Mom’s; Brazilian restaurant and catering company Sinhá on the Near West Side; regional Indian virtual spot Tasting India in Andersonville; and barbecue food truck hit Soul & Smoke based in suburban Evanston.
Finalists for Restaurant of the Year include the recently refurbished fine dining destination Oriole in West Loop (a regular in the category), innovative Uptown restaurant Brass Heart, elegant Korean tasting menu spot Jeong in West Town, farm-to-table stalwart Lula Cafe in Logan Square, and Moody Tongue, the world’s only two Michelin-starred brewpub, in South Loop.
Chef of the Year contenders — who are all men, save for chef Beverly Kim — include well-known local culinary stars Carlos Gaytán (Tzuco), Thai Dang (HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen), Kim and Johnny Clark (Wherewithall, Parachute), Erick Williams (Virtue), and Lee Wolen (Boka, Alla Vita). Rising Star Chef, a category that highlights prominent up-and-comers in Chicago’s restaurant industry, also features an all-male nominee list of Ethan Lim (Hermosa), Zubair Mohajir (The Coach House by Wazwan), James Martin (Bocadillo Market), Ian Rusnak and Eric Safin (Elina’s), and Troy Jorge (Temporis).