Chicago is the proud host of the esteemed James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala through 2021. Named for the respected cookbook author, teacher and champion of American cuisine, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence in their fields and is considered to be the top award in the industry.

And Chicago is more than just host city for these prestigious awards. It's also home to dozens of winners and nominees. In 2018, the city swept the Best Chef - Great Lakes nominations, earning five nods and bringing home the prize. Explore some of this year's recognized restaurants, then try to snag a seat at the hottest tables in town.

FAT RICE: Best Chef - Great Lakes WINNER, 2018

Asian dish from Fat Rice restaurant in Chicago 

A modern take on traditional Luso-Asian cuisine, Fat Rice's menu is filled with playful dishes — all of them bursting with color and flavor. Take a seat in the small, bustling restaurant headed by Chef Abraham Conlon, who was named 2018's Best Chef - Great Lakes. Try specialties like bacon-wrapped daikon cake and pork collar vindaloo, and be sure to order the Arroz Gordo (“Fat Rice”): a bountiful dish overflowing with jumbo prawns, char siu pork, curried chicken, Manila clams, sausage and much more.

BOKA: Outstanding Pastry Chef NOMINEE, 2018 & Best Chef - Great Lakes NOMINEE, 2018Pasta dish from Boka restaurant in Chicago

Whimsical, quirky, imaginative — this not only describes the decor at Boka, with its moss-swathed walls, animal portraiture and vintage door locks, but it extends to the cuisine as well. Lee Wolen, who was nominated for Best Chef - Great Lakes in 2016 and 2018, turns out delectable dishes with artful presentations. The dishes are composed of carefully arranged cuts of meat, fresh seafood and colorful vegetables, all accented by a playful swirl or dollop of sauce. The seasonal desserts are shown equal care, prepared by Meg Galus, who was the 2018 nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef. The restaurant was also in the running for Outstanding Service in 2018.

MARISOL: Rising Star Chef of the Year NOMINEE, 2018

Mural in Marisol restaurant at Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago

Everything about Marisol has an artist's touch. That includes the colorful murals on the walls and the skillfully arranged food on the plates. The new spot in the Museum of Contemporary Art serves up seasonal new American cuisine. During the day, the coffee bar is a gathering spot for locals, while it fills up with the dinner-and-drinks crowd at night. In the kitchen, Chef Sarah Rinkavage has earned herself recognition as a 2018 Rising Star Chef of the Year, reserved for chef's age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come. 

ROISTER: Best Chef - Great Lakes NOMINEE, 2018

The kitchen is the restaurant at Roister. The Fulton Market spot takes open concept to a new level, allowing diners to observe and interact with the chefs at every step of their meal. The brainchild of star chef Grant Achatz, Roister is like the hip younger sibling of Achatz's fine-dining mainstay Alinea. The two spots share an affinity for modern technology, but Roister's menu is rooted in primal cooking techniques. The result? Understated plates with vibrant flavors that earned Executive Chef Andrew Brochu a Best Chef - Great Lakes nomination. 

PARACHUTE: Best Chef - Great Lakes NOMINEE, 2018

Bowl of food at Parachute in Chicago

Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark both earned a nomination for Best Chef - Great Lakes with their creative Korean-American fare at Parachute. The Andersonville space has been a smash hit since it opened, earning a Michelin star and legions of local fans. Guests come from near and far for a seat at the large communal table, where globally inspired dishes intended for sharing get piled high. But the funky-chic space only fits about 40 diners, making it one of the hottest tickets in town.

ELSKE: Best Chef - Great Lakes NOMINEE, 2018

Interior of dining room at Elske restaurant in Chicago

"Elske" means love in Danish, which refers to David and Anna Posey's love for Scandinavian food and each other. The couple opened Elske just west of the West Loop's lauded restaurant row. The menu is a nod to David's Danish heritage, but the couple both have roots in Chicago. He's the former chef of Chicago’s iconic Blackbird and Anna was once pastry chef at the Publican. Together, they've created a minimalist-but-inviting experience that has earned James Beard nominations, a Michelin star, and the #2 slot for Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurant in America.

See the list of all James Beard Award winners in Chicago. 

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