James Beard Awards

Kahan, Grace, Balena, Fehribach Among Beard Award Semifinalists

Paul Kahan, Outstanding Chef nominee.
Paul Kahan, Outstanding Chef nominee. Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

The James Beard Foundation Awards Restaurant and Chef Semifinalists were announced today, and Chicago chefs (current and past) did well in many categories. Although the finalists (who will be announced in March) will be a shorter, more exclusive list, we find the semifinalist list more interesting to see who’s up and coming in our own city and who’s attracting some degree of national attention in smaller markets— and this year’s is no exception. It would have been a surprise to not see Grace listed for Bets New Restaurant, but it’s great to also see Chris Pandel, one of our best chefs at regular people prices, land Balena on there too. Likewise, there are plenty of givens on the Best Chef Great Lakes list— it’s Matthias Merges’ year, and no more surprising that he’s joined by Dave Beran and Chris Nugent, among others— but it’s a pleasure to find Paul Fehribach, whose interest in Southern cuisine grows deeper all the time, making the list too. And moving out of town, it’s great to see former BOKA group pastry chef Elizabeth Dahl on the list for Nostrano in Madison, Wisconsin— and especially cool to see Three Floyds get a nomination for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professionals. The complete list is here; we’ve highlighted Chicago nominees below.

Best New Restaurant: Balena, Grace

Outstanding Bar Program: The Aviary, The Violet Hour

Outstanding Chef: Paul Kahan (listed for Blackbird)

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Patrick Fahy, Sixteen

Outstanding Restaurant: Naha, Spiaggia

Outstanding Restaurateur: Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group (Blackbird, avec, the Publican, etc.)

Outstanding Service: Topolobampo

Outstanding Wine Program: Sepia

Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professionals: Mike, Nick and Simon Floyd, Three Floyds Brewing, Munster, Indiana

Rising Star Chef of the Year: Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig; Matthew Kirkley, L2O; David Posey, Blackbird

Best Chef Great Lakes: Dave Beran, Next; Michael Carlson, Schwa; Paul Fehribach, Bog Jones; Stephanie Izard, Girl & the Goat; Matthias Merges, Yusho; Chris Nugent, Goosefoot; Giuseppe Tentori, Boka; Paul Virant, Perennial Virant; Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia

Kahan, Grace, Balena, Fehribach Among Beard Award Semifinalists