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Recently in James Beard Awards Category

It was Rich Melman's night.

The Lettuce Entertain You honcho, a finalist for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award since at least 2005, finally shrugged off Susan Lucci Syndrome and snagged the honor of Outstanding Restaurateur. The awards, the culinary world's Oscars, were presented at an awards ceremony in New York.

Alas, none of the other Chicago nominees came home a winner, not even in the category of best chef of the Great Lakes region, in which four of the five finalists were from Chicago. Instead, that honor went to Alex Young of Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Chicago nominees included Blackbird's Paul Kahan in the outstanding chef category; Blackbird's pastry chef Patrick Fahy and Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate, both nominated for outstanding pastry chef, and Stephanie Izard, whose popular West Loop restaurant Girl & the Goat was up for the title of the nation's best new restaurant.

The girl is on a roll.

Stephanie Izard
of "Top Chef" fame and the instant hit Girl & the Goat on West Randolph is one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs of 2011.

A super-excited Izard tweeted this morning: "i think the secret is out... off to early morning photo shoot for f&w best new chef!! woooooohooo! super excited!"

Izard joins the likes of Mike Sheerin and Paul Virant in getting the honor. Her restaurant is up for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. The winner will be announced May 9.

Is Girl and the Goat, Stephanie Izard's much hyped and always crowded West Randolph spot, America's best new restaurant?

It's a contender, says the James Beard Foundation.

The New York-based organization on Monday announced the finalists for its prestigious chef and restaurant awards, with Izard's restaurant at 809 W. Randolph among the Chicago nominees.

Paul Kahan, the chef and partner in a growing restaurant group that includes Blackbird, the Publican and, soon, a butcher shop, is a finalist for the Outstanding Chef award. Patrick Fahy, Kahan's pastry chef at Blackbird, is up for the Outstanding Pastry Chef award, as is Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate.

In the category of Best Chef: Great Lakes, four of the five finalists are from Chicago: Michael Carlson of Schwa, Curtis Duffy of Avenues, Bruce Sherman of North Pond and Paul Virant of Vie.

Lettuce Entertain You's honcho Richard Melman is yet again in the running for Outstanding Restaurateur; Topolobampo, Rick Bayless' fine-dining Mexican restaurant, is nominated for Outstanding Service, and Chicago firm JNL Graphic Design is a finalist in the category of Outstanding Restaurant Graphics.

The winners will be announced in New York on May 9.

The list of 2011 James Beard Foundation Award semifinalists was released today with a good number of Chicago chefs in the mix.

Paul Kahan of Blackbird and Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano are up in the Outstanding Chef category, and Spiaggia is in the Outstanding Restaurant field as well.

Blackbird's Patrick Fahy and Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate are up for Outstanding Pastry Chef, while Girl & the Goat, the much-heralded restaurant on West Randolph from "Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard, is up for Best New Restaurant.

Veterans Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and Scott Harris, head of the successful Francesca's empire who has opened no fewer than six restaurants in the last year, are among those vying for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Les Nomades and Topolobampo are semifinalists for Outstanding Service. For Outstanding Wine Service, Michael Muser of Avenues in the Peninsula is the lone Chicago contender, as is Charles Joly of the Drawing Room in the Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional field.

Tru's Anthony Martin is up for the coveted Rising Star Chef award for chefs under 30.

Let's hope the Chicago entrants in the Best Chef:Great Lakes category don't cancel each other out -- Schwa's Michael Carlson, Curtis Duffy of Avenues, Dirk Flanigan of the Gage and Henri, Dale Levitski of Sprout, Chris Nugent of Les Nomades, Bruce Sherman of North Pond and Paul Virant of Vie.

Each field will be whittled down to five finalists, who will be announced on March 21. The awards, held in New York in May, are the equivalent of the Oscars for the culinary industry and are voted on by a panel of industry professionals and past winners.

by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes; photo by Kent Miller:

Don't buy the stereotypes; some people get along with their in-laws. In 1948, on the edge of the Calumet River, brothers-in-law Sid Kotlick and Len Toll opened Calumet Fisheries, 3259 E. 95th. Sixty years later, they're still dishing the fish. Mark-Kotlick--Calumet-Fisheries-photo-by-Kent-Miller.jpg

They smoke fish over natural wood. (Check the website for a smoked fish menu, or stop by Calumet Fisheries and do some impulse shopping.) The Kotlick-Toll clan takes pride in serving the freshest possible fish. Shrimp, oysters, frogs' legs, crab cakes and catfish share menu space with cheese sticks, onion rings, mushrooms and macaroni salad.

The place is strictly take-away - not what you expect to see at the "tuxedos and white linens" James Beard Awards. The Beard Foundation, however, give America's Classics Awards, awards that go to places that locals appreciate.

Last night, Mark Kotlick slung a green ribbon around his neck. Shoulders back, head high, eyes glowing, he stood like exactly what he was: the bearer of recognition for more than half a century of good service, well-prepared fresh fish and local pride.

No need to tell Grant Achatz to strike while the iron's hot.

A week after Achatz's restaurant, Alinea, was named the seventh best restaurant in the world, via S.Pellegrino's annual list, on the night Alinea was given the Best Service award by the James Beard Foundation and one day before Alinea's 5th anniversary -- Achatz posted a link Monday on Twitter detailing his next two ventures, which he'd alluded to in interviews last week.

Ladies and gentleman, he presents Next and Aviary, a restaurant and bar, respectively. Think: "world cuisine," time travel, four menus a year, 40 to 75 bucks, tickets not reservations, drinks by chefs not mixologists. Fall 2010.

Read on here.

Upstairs, a man says, "There's this pork on a kind of cracker downstairs - That's the best."

Downstairs, Priscilla Satkoff of Salpicon, 1252 N. Wells, dishes out Tostaditas de Tinga: crispy tortillas mounded with shredded pork and chorizo in a chipotle-laced roasted tomato sauce, topped with Mexican cream and avocado.

Bypassing the plates, elegantly attired men and women reach for easy finger food. Crisp tortilla, tender shredded pork, a touch more fat in the form of avocado and cream . . . you can't blame the guests if they go back for thirds or fourths. After all, it's only a mouthful - and they're not as lucky as Chicagoans. If they have a craving tomorrow, then they have to board a plane.

IMG_0891-Satkoff.jpg

Story and photos by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes:

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Standing on Lincoln Center's plaza, well-earned glasses of Champagne in hand, Alinea's dapper crew wears their latest honors well. Alinea, 1723 N. Halsted, took outstanding service - a thing that gives Grant Achatz clear pleasure. Achatz is no stranger to the James Beard Awards, but this time's different.

"It's a great achievement for the front of the house," Achatz says. "Joe [Catterson] and Craig [Sindelar] have been with us since day one - before day one. Joe . . . months before the restaurant opened, helping us plan it and lay it out. He's such a great, detail-oriented service person. More than that, he really makes the restaurant run."

Catterson is Alinea's general manager and wine director; Sindelar's the head sommelier. There are separate roles in the restaurant, but looking at Alinea's winners, it's apparent that this is a team.

Achatz is beaming. "For these guys to get that recognition, it's great." He pauses for half a second and adds, "I love it."

by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes; photo by Kent Miller:

Koren-Grieveson--Avec-Best-Chef-Great-Lakes--photo-by-Kent-Miller.jpg

Koren Grieveson took Best Chef: Great Lakes. That's one for Avec, 615 W. Randolph. Grieveson is "thrilled ... nervous, excited." She wishes she had more planned to say. One gets the sense that, of all she'd expected, the last was the possibility that she might win.

She was seated so far in the back that the Award presenters thought she wasn't in the house. She was. She just had an intimidating 100-yard walk to the stage.

"Now, I join my crew and celebrate, have a few more glasses of Champagne and get back to work," she said.

Get back to work. And that's what it's all about.


By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes:

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For the gala, Curtis Duffy, chef de cuisine of Avenues at the Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior, served king crab in cucumber consomme, with wild steelhead roe, kalamansi and tangerine lace.

Michael Muser, Avenues' wine director, says that there were some problems with the lace - not making it, but getting it from Chicago to New York. The lace, which is made with three kinds of sugar, is extremely fragile. Not only is it prone to breakage, but it also melts at the drop of . . . well, at a drop of anything.

To get it to Lincoln Center, they wrapped it in cellophane, put it in Tupperware tubs and gave one tub to each member of the Avenues team -- and each one got stopped by security at the airport. They had to unwrap the sugar lace and show it to security guards . . . again and again. No worries, though. They got here - crew, fish, dishes and delicate sugar lace.

At Avenues, the presentation is in glass. The gala compromise is plastic - but the dish still looks beautiful: bright and colorful and fresh. As to Duffy and his team, you'd never guess that they'd spent a day having their craft questioned by security guards. They look as cool as the cucumber in which their king crab swims.

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About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the James Beard Awards category.

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