David Chang (Momofuku etc.) is the sort of chef who rockets to fame in a media-driven place like New York and quickly builds an empire of restaurants. Paul Kahan (Blackbird etc.) is the sort of chef who makes his way to acclaim through hard work and the steadily dawning recognition that his restaurants in Chicago are something special. Last night, somehow this tortoise and hare combo wound up in a tie for the top honor at the James Beard Foundation Awards in New York City, the Outstanding Chef award— the third tie in this category in 26 years (most reports so far say “only the third tie,” but we think a tie every nine years is a lot, actually). It was Kahan’s fifth Outstanding Chef nomination and his second Beard award ever— he previously won Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2004. Meanwhile, that award, Best Chef: Great Lakes, went to a chef just down Randolph Street, Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat, who beat three other Chicago chefs on her third nomination in three years. The only other Chicago winner last night was The Aviary, which bested The Violet Hour and three others on its second nomination in two years for Outstanding Bar Program.
Photo: Kent Miller/James Beard Foundation