It's that time of the year again, kids -- James Beard Award time! The field of nominees, announced this morning at Frontera Grill, is saturated with hometown names yet again. (Read the full list of nominees here.)
The Chicago nominees are:
Paul Kahan of Blackbird for Outstanding Chef
L20 for Best New Restaurant
Rich Melman for Outstanding Restaurateur
Spiaggia for Outstanding Service
Koren Grieveson of Avec; Arun Sampathavivat of Arun's; and Bruce Sherman of North Pond for Best Chef-Great Lakes
Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate for Outstanding Pastry Chef
Bin 36 for Outstanding Wine Service
The Publican for Outstanding Restaurant Design and Graphics.
Alinea - the cookbook, not the restaurant -- for best cookbook on cooking from a professional point of view.
In the media awards:
Steve Dolinsky of Channel 7 is up for his umpteenth award in a television category, the Trib is up for awards in three categories and the Reader's Mike Sula gets a nod in a multimedia category. His competition in that category is none other than Gourmet's Ruth Reichl -- twice.
This is the first year the awards were announced in Chicago. Beard Foundation president Susan Ungaro told me there were already a number of big-name chefs and foundation folks here for a Beard charity event in conjunction with the massive Housewares Show, so she figured, two birds, one stone.
Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano, who was at Monday's breakfast, admitted he's lost count of his nominations but is psyched nonetheless.
"We've served a lot of interesting people this year, including the Obamas. Hopefully, that gets you a nomination," said Mantuano, who says he knows to always "keep an extra table" in case his highest-profile customers decide to drop in. Because that's how it happens these days, Mantuano said. Someone calls him the day of and says, the President would like to dine there tonight.
The Beard awards ceremony will be held on May 3 and 4 in New York.