Highlights and Winners from the 2015 James Beard Awards in Chicago
Chicago pride was on display last night at the 25th James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards, which have temporarily migrated from New York for a three-year run at the Windy City’s Lyric Opera. The ceremony’s host, Food Network’s own Alton Brown, may be a Southerner, but he was joined on stage by gala co-chairs Grant Achatz, Rick Bayless and Paul Kahan, three of Chicago’s greatest chefs. Rich Melman, founder of prolific Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award with a speech packed with pride for his hometown. Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the city’s food scene on the red carpet and in remarks on stage. When Food Network asked the mayor if he had any favorite places to travel outside of Chicago for great food, he didn't miss a beat in retorting, "Yeah, Chicago!" And every time Chicago took home an award, the opera house boomed with cheers.
Alton kicked off the ceremony by performing an original song, “The Meat Goes On” — expressing love for bacon, charcuterie, and all things meaty with his own vocals and guitar playing. He then gave the winners-to-be some tips for how to use their James Beard hardware. With a video on his smartphone, he joked that he uses his two James Beard medals to brew tea and cool his eyes in lieu of cucumbers on spa days.
Chicago wasn’t the only well-represented food town. New York took home awards in five of the major categories: Outstanding Baker (Jim Lahey/Sullivan Street), Best New Restaurant (Bâtard), Outstanding Pastry Chef (Christina Tosi/Momofuku), Outstanding Restaurant (Blue Hill at Stone Barns) and Outstanding Chef (Michael Anthony/Gramercy Tavern). Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen brought Baltimore its first-ever Beard award with his Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic win. Cleveland’s Jonathon Sawyer of the Greenhouse Tavern swept a Chicago-heavy category to take Best Chef: Great Lakes. San Francisco scored both Outstanding Wine Program (A16) and Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional (Rajat Parr/Mina Group).
Lots of celebrating followed the three-plus-hour ceremony, starting with the two-level gala at the Lyric in which dozens of past winners cooked for the black-tie-clad crowd. From there it was on to after parties throughout Chicago, which included a goat-shaped ice luge at Girl & the Goat, a taco fiesta at Big Star and late-night noodles at Ramen-san, which paired up with New York’s Ramen Lab for the evening. One thing is for sure: Win or lose, no attendees will leave Chicago hungry today.
Without further ado, the full list of 2015 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award winners:
Outstanding Baker: Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, NYC
Outstanding Chef: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, NYC
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku, NYC
Outstanding Restaurant: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
Outstanding Restaurateur: Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group, Chicago (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican and others)
Outstanding Service: The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional: Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif.
Best Chef: Great Lakes: Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic: Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore
Best Chef: Midwest: Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, Mo.
Best Chef: Northeast: Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, Mass.
Best Chef: Northwest: Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, Wash.
Best Chef: South: Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast: Jason Stanhope, FIG, Charleston, S.C.
Best Chef: Southwest: Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin
Best Chef: West: Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Restaurant Design, 75 Seats and Under: Brindille, Chicago
Restaurant Design, 76 Seats and Over: Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Palm Springs, Calf.
Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg, Ky.
2015 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America:
Allan Benton, Pork Producer and Purveyor, Madisonville, Tenn.
Nathalie Dupree, Cookbook Author and Television Personality, Charleston, S.C.
Maricel Presilla, Chef, Restaurateur, and Cookbook Author, Hoboken, N.J.
2015 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year: Michel Nischan, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Wholesome Wave, Westport, Conn.
2015 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago
Find coverage of last week’s James Beard Broadcast, Book & Journalism Awards here.