Chicago has a virtual lock on the James Beard award for the best chef in the Great Lakes region. Four of the five nominees, announced this morning in New Orleans, are ours: Arun Sampanthavivat of Arun's , Bruce Sherman of North Pond, the enigmatic Michael Carlson of schwa and the lone female, Koren Grieveson of avec. The fifth, Alex Young, is from Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The rest of the field of nominees for the prestigious awards is rich with Chicago names. Spiaggia, the Obama date-night spot on the Magnificent Mile, is up for outstanding restaurant; Lettuce Entertain You's maestro Rich Melman, yet again, for outstanding restaurateur; Alinea for outstanding service, and Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate for outstanding pastry chef.
Korn Design, a Boston firm, got the nod in the outstanding restaurant graphics category for their design of the lively Jose Garces spot, Mercat a la Planxa, 638 S. Michigan.
On the media side, Rick Bayless (remember him from that little show called Top Chef Masters?) is in the running for top TV food personality for his work on the PBS series, "Mexico One Plate at a Time." WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight and ABC-Channel 7's Friday Night Special Hungry Hound programs are finalists in the audio webcast/radio show and TV segment categories, respectively.
The Tribune's Monica Eng and Kevin Pang and the Reader's Mike Sula and Cliff Doerksen snagged nominations in health/environment/nutrition reporting and feature writing categories. Chicagotribune.com is up for a multimedia food feature award for Pang's "The Cheeseburger Show."
Congratulations to all the nominees. The awards will be announced in May in New York.