"Congratulations to all the semifinalists of the James Beard Awards, not only for their contributions in the kitchen, but for making Chicago the culinary capital of America. The diversity and quality of Chicago's world-class restaurants are helping attract more than 50 million tourists a year and grow Chicago's vibrant neighborhoods. When the James Beard Awards come to Chicago in May, not only will these great semifinalists be recognized, so too will Chicago's reputation as a city where the best restaurateurs and chefs come to experiment and excel."
– Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago
Announced on February 18, 2015, the list of 25 Chicago Semifinalists recognized by the James Beard Foundation Awards represents a wide-range of the city's culinary talents. From rising chefs to accomplished restaurateurs, these honorees were selected from a list of over 34,000 online entries and reviewed by committee for inclusion on the nominating ballot.
On March 24, 2015 the Foundation will announce the final award nominees and on May 4, 2015 the Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception will take place at the Civic Opera House in Chicago. This marks the first time the ceremony will be held outside of New York City, and will also be the 25th anniversary of the "Oscars of the Food Industry."
Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields. See the full semifinalist list at jamesbeard.org/awards.
The James Beard Awards
2015 Chicago Semifinalists: Restaurant and Chef Awards
BEST CHEF: GREAT LAKES
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.
Abraham Conlon, Fat Rice, Chicago, IL
- Curtis Duffy, Grace, Chicago, IL
- Paul Fehribach, Big Jones, Chicago, IL
- Phillip Foss, EL Ideas, Chicago, IL
- Thomas Lents, Sixteen, Chicago, IL
- Ryan McCaskey, Acadia, Chicago, IL
- Erling Wu-Bower, Nico Osteria, Chicago, IL
- Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia, Chicago, IL
BEST NEW RESTAURANTA restaurant opened in the calendar year before the award will be given that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.
OUTSTANDING BAR PROGRAM
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits, beer service.
A working chef in America 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.
Carrie Nahabedian, Naha, Chicago, IL
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.
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.
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, IL (Boka, Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, Momotaro, and others)
A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.
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.
OUTSTANDING WINE, SPIRITS, OR BEER PROFESSIONAL
A beer, wine or spirits professional who has made a significant national impact on the restaurant industry.
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.