After being nominated for James Beard Award for six consecutive years, Richard Melman was finally crowned Restaurateur of the Year last night. He is the founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You, which features about 40 different restaurant concepts, along with such fine dining spots as Tru, L2O, and Everest. It was well deserved. Unfortunately, he was the only real bright spot for Chicago during the ceremony, as ABC Kitchen won best new restaurant, and Alex Young took home Best Chef: Great Lakes for his work at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, MI. You can check out the full list of winners here. Interestingly, Melman wasn’t even at the awards ceremony, and didn’t know he had won until the Tribune called to let him know.
Melman responded to the Tribune by saying, “I didn’t even realize that today were the Beard awards until you called. I am truly surprised.” Melman is actually the first Chicago recipient of the Best Restaurateur Award. The honor has some good timing, too. The news comes just a month before the 40th anniversary of R.J. Grunts, which was the very first Lettuce Entertain You restaurant. Congratulations!
At long last, Rich Melman a Beard award winner [Chicago Tribune]