For nearly three decades the James Beard Foundation has celebrated chefs and culinary professionals throughout the restaurant and food industry.

It has also advanced “delicious, diverse, and sustainable” food initiatives. So it’s no surprise that the foundation chose the theme “RISE” for its 2018 award ceremony and gala, which will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 7.

The intent is to recognize those chefs who have risen to the occasion, “whether to feed those in need, to stand up for what they believe in, to support their local communities, or to express their personal stories through their cooking,” according to the James Beard Foundation.

Winners receive a certificate and a James Beard Foundation medallion, but the recognition bestowed by what’s often referred to as the “Oscars of the food world” lasts a lifetime.

We spoke with two past Chicago winners — Sarah Grueneberg, executive chef and owner of Monteverde Restaurant, who was awarded the 2017 Best Chef: Great Lakes title; and Carrie Nahabedian, executive chef and owner of NAHA and Brindille, who earned the 2008 Best Chef: Great Lakes title — to get their thoughts on the James Beard Awards and what it means for the city.

Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio