The James Beard Foundation released its “long list” of 2024 semifinalists on Wednesday morning, announcing 17 Chicago restaurants, bars, chefs, and hospitality professionals in the running for a so-called Oscar of the food world. That’s an uptick since last year, adding six more to the lineup than the 11 Chicago semifinalists named in 2023.
Chicago’s cohort features an interesting mix of new entries with serious local cred and noteworthy yet familiar players in the Foundation’s annual festivities. The former group includes Marcos Carbajal, the second-generation owner of mighty Mexican meat haven Carnitas Uruapan, who earned his first nod for Outstanding Restaurateur. Atelier, chef Christian Hunter’s newish fine dining den, earned a spot among the semifinalists for Best New Restaurant after replacing chef Iliana Regan’s decorated spot Elizabeth, and chef Kevin Hickey’s boisterous Duck Inn could take home the prize for Outstanding Restaurant.
Beard Award regulars John Shields and Karen Urie Shields of three-Michelin-starred Smyth are up for Outstanding Chef this year, and brothers Nicolas and Oliver Poilevey join Carbajal in the restaurateurs category with their restaurants Obelix (a finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2023), Le Bouchon, and Taqueria Chingón; and chef Zubair Mohajir is in the running for Emerging Chef for his work at the Coach House by Wazwan.
As in years past, Chicago dominates when it comes to Best Chef: Great Lakes semifinalists, this year kicking off with seven entries: Diana Dávila, who was a finalist for the same award last year with modern Mexican restaurant Mi Tocaya Antojería, Joe Fontelera of Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant (winner of Eater’s Reboot of the Year award in 2023), Joe Frillman of Daisies (Eater’s Restaurant of the Year), James Martin of Spanish spot Bocadillo Market, Sujan Sarkar of Michelin-starred Indienne, Jenner Tomaska of Michelin-starred Esme, and Donald Young of pop-up series Duck Sel.
Among the many fine dining heavyweights, however, lies an engaging list of local specialists. Loba Pastry + Coffee, the hard-fought bakery from comeback queen Valeria Socorro Velazquez Lindsten, is a semifinalist for Outstanding Bakery, while Anna Posey of Michelin-starred Elske could take home the award for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker. Middle Brow, the neighborhood pizzeria and brewery that rolled out its own natural wines last year, has secured a nod for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program. Scratch Brewing Company in downstate Ava, Illinois, is a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar.
The awards ceremony for some of the highest honors in the food world will return on June 10 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Finalists will be revealed on Wednesday, April 3.
Head over to Eater for the long list from around the country. This year’s Chicago semifinalist nominations are below.
(* denotes a repeated nominee from past years)
Marcos Carbajal, Carnitas Uruapan
*Nicolas Poilevey and Oliver Poilevey, Obelix, Le Bouchon, and Taqueria Chingón
*John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth
*Zubair Mohajir, The Coach House by Wazwan
Best New Restaurant
Loba Pastry + Coffee
Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker
*Anna Posey, Elske
Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program
Best Chef: Great Lakes
*Diana Dávila Boldin, Mi Tocaya Antojería
Joe Fontelera, Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant
Joe Frillman, Daisies
James Martin, Bocadillo Market
Sujan Sarkar, Indienne
*Jenner Tomaska, Esme
*Donald Young, Duck Sel
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.