James Beard Awards: Try these Chicago restaurants before they get even hotter

James Beard Awards: Try these Chicago restaurants before they get even hotter
Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, Parachute are semi-finalists for the best chef in the Midwest. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The James Beard Foundation has just announced its list of Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists for the 26th annual James Beard Foundation Awards.

The semifinalists are selected from more than 20,000 online entries in 21 categories from ten different regions across the U.S.

Chicago is represented by at least one nominee in each category. The largest number of Chicago nominees are in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category (chefs under 30) with three nominees and Best Chefs: Great Lakes category with 11 Chicago chefs represented.

Boka and Boka group restaurants got the most nominees appearing in three different categories.

Interestingly, not all of Chicago's Michelin starred restaurants are represented. Chicago's 3-starred restaurants Alinea and Grace get nods with Grant Achata's Alinea being the lone Chicago restaurant in the running for top dog in the most Outstanding Restaurant in the U.S. category.

Other outstanding Chicago restaurants not this list, including Grace, aren't yet eligible as restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years to be considered.

Chicago's 2-star Michelin restaurants Acadia and 42 Grams are both nominated but Thomas Lents 2-star Sixteen is MIA.

View from the dining room at Sixteen

View from the dining room at Sixteen

The finalists will be named at the James Beard Awards Gala that will take place at Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 2.

Until then here are the Chicago nominees (for a list of all nominees, click here)

Best New Restaurant

This award is given to a restaurant that opened in the calendar year before the award is given--for this year's awards that is between January 1 and December 31, 2015. The judges look for excellence in food, beverage, and service, and a restaurant that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.

The Blanchard, Chicago

Intro, Chicago

Outstanding Baker

This award goes to a chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. They must have been a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.

Dave and Megan Miller, Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse, Chicago

Outstanding Bar Program

This award goes to a restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits and/or beer service.

Lost Lake, Chicago

Outstanding Chef

The outstanding chef goes to an American chef whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Eligible candidates must have been working as a chef for the past five years.

Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia, Chicago

Carrie Nahabedian, Naha, Chicago

Outstanding Pastry Chef

A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries or breads in a restaurant, and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence.  Must have been a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.

Meg Galus, Boka, Chicago

Outstanding Restaurant

A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.

Alinea, Chicago

Outstanding Restaurateur

A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Candidates must not have won a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.

Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, Boka Restaurant Group, Chicago (Boka, Girl & the Goat, Momotaro, Swift & Sons, and others)

Outstanding Service

A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.

North Pond, Chicago

Topolobampo, Chicago

Outstanding Wine Program

A restaurant in operation five or more years that serves as a standard bearer for excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine.

Sepia, Chicago

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional

A beer, wine or spirits professional who has made a significant national impact on the restaurant industry.

Charles Joly, Crafthouse, Chicago

Rising Star Chef of the Year

A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.

Tanya Baker, Boarding House, Chicago

Edward Sura, Perennial Virant, Chicago

Jenner Tomaska, Next, Chicago

Best Chefs

Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Eligible candidates may be from any kind of dining establishment and must have been working as a chef for at least five years with the three most recent years spent in the region.

Best Chef: Great Lakes

Jake Bickelhaupt, 42 Grams, Chicago

Abraham Conlon, Fat Rice, Chicago

Curtis Duffy, Grace, Chicago, click here to learn more about Duffy

Paul Fehribach, Big Jones, Chicago

Phillip Foss, EL Ideas, Chicago

Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, Parachute, Chicago

Ryan McCaskey, Acadia, Chicago

Iliana Regan, Elizabeth, Chicago

Lee Wolen, Boka, Chicago

Erling Wu-Bower, Nico Osteria, Chicago

Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia, Chicago

Tickets go on sale in March for this year’s gala. They are pricey but if you are a true foodie you may want to pony up. Check out the video below for a preview from last year's event.

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