Highlights from the James Beard Foundation Awards at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Highlights from the James Beard Foundation Awards at the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Glitter, black ties and a red carpet as guests mingle before the ceremony. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

(Chicago, May 8, 2018) Last night’s nearly four hour long James Beard awards ceremony at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, emceed by Carla Hall, not only honored the nominees and winners but it honored equality through its theme “RISE” with attendees and participants wearing vibrant pins and holding signs stating what they rise for, from “equality” to “locally sourced food” to “no waste” and “integrity.” 

The Grand Finale ceremony of the James Beard awards for 2018 honored Restaurants, Chefs and Restaurant Design, as well as several special achievement awards, including Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Lifetime Achievement, Design Icons, America’s Classics, and Humanitarian of the Year. 

The evening kicked off with an upbeat monologue by Hall, wearing her trademark round white glasses, a chic one-shoulder black jumpsuit and silver stilettos. 

Next came “The Parade of Chefs” where Hall danced down the line of chefs taking a nasty fall along the way bouncing back with aplomb and finishing the salute barefooted.

Parade of Chefs. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Parade of Chefs. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Paula Wolfert

Paula Wolfert

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Paula Wolfert, someone who actually knew and worked with James Beard as her mentor. The 80-year-old Wolfert, author of nine classic cookbooks including Couscous and Other Good Food From MoroccoThe Cooking of Southwest France and Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, gave one the best talks of the evening recalling events from her amazing culinary journey punctuated with humor–all the more impressive because she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013.

Last year’s winner for Most Outstanding Restaurant, Rick Bayless (Topolobampo) announced this year’s winner. You may think it would be from one of the foodie cities like: Chicago, New York, New Orleans or San Francisco but the winner was Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, AL.

Chicago was represented by Fat Rice’s Abraham Conlon who won his medal for Best Chef in the Midwest. 

A fun video presented by Tabasco Sauce, the 150 year-old American Classic, still produced with only three simple ingredients, by the McIlhenny family, in the same location (Avery Island, LA) featured America’s Classic Restaurants–kind of a drive-in and dives segment where Chicago’s Sun Wah BBQ (5039 N Broadway St) was one of the five winners.

Other highlights from this year’s list of winners include:

  • Best New Restaurant: JuneBaby, Seattle
  • Outstanding Baker: Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, B. Patisserie, San Francisco
  • Outstanding Chef: Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune, NYC
  • Outstanding Bar Program: Cure, New Orleans
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL
  • Outstanding Wine Program: FIG, Charleston, SC.
  •  Outstanding Restaurateur: Caroline Styne, The Lucques Group, Los Angeles (Lucques, a.o.c., Tavern, and others)
  • Rising Star Chef: Camille Cogswell, Zahav, Philadelphia 
  • Humanitarian of the Year: Joseì Andreìs, Multiple James Beard Award–Winning Chef; Owner, ThinkFoodGroup; Founder, World Central Kitchen

The awards ceremony was followed by followed by a gala reception featuring top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country offering their creative fare throughout the first two floors of the Lyric Opera.

The after party. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The after party. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

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