Chicago chefs nominees aplenty at James Beard 2011
Tribune's Monica Eng also nominated
James Beard 2011 awards
Rich Melman is hoping it’s seven.
All three have been nominated — again — for James Beard Foundation Awards, which annually recognize the best chefs, restaurants and restaurant owners in the country.
The nominees — there are five in most categories — represent the top vote-getters from an earlier ballot of semifinalists, which is created by the Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Committee. (Disclosure: I sit on that committee.)
In the most prestigious category (the final award handed out at the Beards), Paul Kahan of Blackbird, The Publican, Avec and other, is a nominee in the Outstanding Chef award. A win would put Kahan in rarefied company; the only other Chicagoans to win Outstanding Chef have been Rick Bayless (1995), Charlie Trotter (1999) and Grant Achatz (2008).
Kahan is joined by his Blackbird colleague Patrick Fahy, a nominee in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category. It's Fahy's first nomination. “I’m shocked and speechless,” Fahy said. “I’m very emotional right now. It’s a ridiculously amazing honor. I hugged my fiancee and my mom.”
For Mindy Segal, owner of Mindy’s HotChocolate in Bucktown, this is the fifth consecutive year she has been nominated as the nation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef, an award she has yet to win. Bruce Sherman is in a similar situation; this is the North Pond chef’s fifth consecutive nomination in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category.
For the seventh straight year, Rich Melman, founder of the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant empire, was nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur. Melman has been a nominee every year of the award’s existence.
Girl & the Goat, the Randolph-corridor restaurant featuring chef Stephanie Izard, was nominated in the Best New Restaurant category, open only to restaurants that opened in 2010. The nomination isn’t going to make reservations to Girl & the Goat, already one of the toughest tickets in town, any easier.
“We owe it all to our awesome staff, and all of our guests who make the Goat the fun place to work and dine that it is,” Izard said.
Other nominees for Best Chef: Great Lakes (a region that encompasses Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) are Michael Carlson of Schwa, Curtis Duffy of Avenues, Paul Virant of Vie and Alex Young of Zingerman’s Roadhouse (in Ann Arbor, Mich.).
“Every nominee on that list is incredible,” said Duffy. “They’re all chefs with different styles of cuisines. It’s kind of a shock, but I was very excited.”
The front-of-house staff of 15 at Topolobampo, the fine dining Mexican restaurant by Rick Bayless, was nominated for Outstanding Service. “I think without a doubt this is the best service team we’ve ever had,” Bayless said. “This is not about me at all. It’s our front of house staff creating that special, unique experience for our guest.”
The firm at JNL Graphic Design also received a nomination for Outstanding Restaurant Graphics for The Publican.
In the Journalism Awards, also announced Monday, the Tribune’s Monica Eng (right) was nominated in the Environment, Food Politics and Policy category for her series on Chicago Public School’s lunch program, and Michael Gebert and Julia Thiel of the Chicago Reader were nominated, in the multimedia category, for “Key Ingredient,” a weekly print and video feature.
Journalism award winners will be announced on May 6. The Restaurant and Chef Awards will be announced at the foundation’s Annual Gala on May 9.
A complete list of nominees can be found here.