What are the James Beard Award Semifinalists? Well, it’s a shortlist of people and places that are sure to actually be nominated (like Next) next month, and it’s also a list of people and places that probably won’t be. But like all awards, it tells you something about how somebody sees you, and that’s interesting in and of itself— especially for seeing who’s in the second tier now but could be an up-and-comer. Anyway, as the Trib reports there’s plenty of Chicago-area nominees; you can see the full shortlist (if that makes any sense) here, but some highlights include both Next and Bistronomic being shortlisted for Best New Restaurant, The Aviary and The Violet Hour for Outstanding Bar Program, and Carrie Nahabedian (Naha), who won Best Chef Great Lakes a couple of years ago, making it to the national list for Outstanding Chef for the first time (alongside Paul Kahan and Tony Mantuano).
Patrick Fahy (Cafe des Architectes) got shortlisted for Outstanding Pastry Chef alongside Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate), who has been an actual nominee a gazillion times before but never won. Tru was Chicago’s only semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurant this year; Donnie Madia of One Off Hospitality (Blackbird, etc.) is the only Chicagoan listed for Outstanding Restaurateur; Spiaggia and Topolobampo were listed for Outstanding Service.
We didn’t do so well in wine— no Chicagoan was listed for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional, though Sepia got a nod for Outstanding Wine Program. We did better in Rising Star Chef, with Dave Beran (Next), Matthew Kirkley (L2O) and David Posey (Blackbird) all making the shortlist. (There hasn’t been much talk about Kirkley’s L2O locally, interesting that he should get national attention so quickly.)
Finally, not surprisingly quite a number of Chicago and Illinois chefs figure on the Best Chef: Great Lakes shortlist, including Josh Adams of June in Peoria, Michael Carlson of Schwa, Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), Martial Noguier (Bistronomic), Chris Nugent zooming right onto the list for Goosefoot, Bruce Sherman (North Pond), Giuseppe Tentori (GT Fish & Oyster Bar), Paul Virant (Vie), and Andrew Zimmeran (Sepia). Maybe next year they’ll notice that having shortlisted every single chef working for BoKa Group (apart from Chris Pandel whose Balena isn’t open yet), Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz deserve a look as well.