Ok so I'm a few days late on this, but the annual James Beard Awards ceremony was held this past Sunday at the Lincoln Center in New York City, and Chicago's favorite molecular gastronomist, Grant Achatz, took the top prize: the Outstanding Chef Award.
If you're unfamiliar, the James Beard Awards are the annual "Oscars" of the American food industry: they are among the highest honors a chef can receive. The "Outstanding Chef" award is the highest prize: it goes to "a working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Candidates must have been working as a chef for at least the past five years." So yeah, it's a pretty big deal. CONGRATS GRANT!!! :) His fellow nominees were:
*Jose Andres of minibar, Washington, DC (and guest judge on this season of Top Chef)
*Dan Barber of Blue Hill, NYC
*Suzanne Goin of Lucques, LA
*Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Chicago chef Carrie Nahabedian of Naha took home the regional honor of Best Chef: Great Lakes. Her fellow nominees included Graham Elliot Bowles (for Avenues, Chicago), Bruce Sherman (North Pond, Chicago), Michael Symon (Lola, Cleveland), Alex Young (Zingerman's Roadhouse, Ann Arbor).
My favorite Chicago pastry chef, Mindy Segal, was nominated but snubbed for the second year in a row in the "Outstanding Pastry Chef" category, so that's a bummer! But I'm glad she was nominated and I hope they do the right thing and give it to her next year.
Bravo's Top Chef was honored with a broadcast media award for "Best Television Food Special" for the Top Chef Holiday Special, which aired last December. The show did not however take the "Best Television Food Show" honors, which instead went to a PBS show I've never heard of (but must be good): Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie. However, it's really a credit to the Top Chef producers that this show is taken seriously enough to even be nominated at these awards - notice that there's no Iron Chef, no Hell's Kitchen, no Emiril or Rachael Ray. There's a reason they're not in there and a reason why Top Chef is. And that's the reason I watch.
Read the Trib's full coverage of the event here. The complete list of nominees and winners is here.