May 06 2015 – Robert Fiumara
The 25th annual James Beard Awards were held in Chicago, Illinois on May 4th. The James Beard Awards, considered by many to be the Oscars of the culinary profession, took place at the Civic Opera House – most often, the awards are held in New York City.
The awards, named after the man considered by most to be the first celebrity chef in America, were established in 1990 and seek to honor the best of the best in the food industry. While Chicago was the city selected to host the awards, most of them went to food industry professionals who are based in New York City, but Chicago’s food scene was highly recognized. Many restaurants and eateries reported a surge of reservations prior to the awards ceremony. Following the popular NFL Draft, held in Chicago that weekend, Chicago’s culinary scene was busy, indeed, with around a forty percent increase in sales.
Top awards include best new restaurant, awarded to Batard and owners Drew Nieporent and chef Markus Glocker. Also honored were Michael Anthony, executive chef of Gramercy Tavern, who won outstanding chef – an award given to those who have been working as a chef for at least five years. Outstanding baker was awarded to Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery and best pastry chef went to Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, while Blue Hill at Stone Barns was honored with outstanding restaurant.
Of note this year was the lifetime achievement award, presented to Richard Melman, owner and restaurateur of Lettuce Entertain You, a Chicago based restaurant. The awards are voted on by members of the James Beard Foundation and will remain in Chicago through 2017. The hope is that the publicity garnered from the awards will drive people to visit Chicago and in fact, the Illinois Restaurant Association, notes that culinary tours and vacations in Chicago are being booked at an expedient rate.
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