Finalists for the James Beard Awards, often called the Oscars of the food world, have been announced, and Chicago has ten nominees up for prizes. Winners are at the top of the restaurant world and often go on to even bigger things; just look at Sarah Grueneberg, who last year was awarded Best Chef: Great Lakes and is now the host of WTTW's upcoming cooking show, Dishalicious, which premieres on Friday, April 6 at 8:30 pm (Rick Bayless, the chef behind last year's Outstanding Restaurant winner Topolobampo, will also appear on Dishalicious, on April 13.) The Awards will be presented at a gala at Chicago's Lyric Opera on May 7. (Last year, we checked out the food that chefs serve at the gala.)
See this year's list of Chicago finalists, and find Check, Please! reviews of their restaurants, recipes from them, and interviews with them below.
Best Chef: Great Lakes – Andrew Brochu of Roister
Three guests reviewed the newest Alinea Group restaurant on Check, Please! in November. What did they think of Brochu's cooking?
Best Chef: Great Lakes – Abe Conlon of Fat Rice
Conlon, who was nominated in the same category last year, and his partner Adrienne Lo talked about their restaurant’s unique Macanese cuisine on Chat, Please! and shared a recipe as well as cooking tips with Check, Please! host Catherine De Orio. Fat Rice was also reviewed on Check, Please a year ago.
Best Chef: Great Lakes – Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark of Parachute
Like Abe Conlon, Kim and Clark were nominated in the same category last year for their Michelin-starred restaurant. They answered Catherine De Orio’s questions about their modern Korean food and their favorite Korean joint in Chicago, and the restaurant was reviewed on Check, Please! in 2015. Kim will also appear in the Korean episode of Dishalicious, on April 20.
Best Chef: Great Lakes – David Posey and Anna Posey of Elske
This is the first nomination for the Poseys and Elske, which only opened last year – so Check, Please! hasn't made it there yet!
Best Chef: Great Lakes – Lee Wolen of Boka
This is Wolen's third nomination in a row, and while he wasn't chef at Boka when Check, Please! reviewed it in 2008, you can still get a sense of the restaurant's style and vibe from the episode.
Outstanding Pastry Chef – Meg Galus of Boka
Galus was a semifinalist last year and a nominee in 2016 for this category. Boka could have a big year if both she and Wolen win.
Outstanding Baker – Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread
Wade was also nominated last year in the same category. At that time, he told us how James Beard, the man, had influenced him and shared his favorite Beard recipe.
Outstanding Restaurateur – Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of the Boka Restaurant Group
With two chefs from their flagship restaurant nominated (and Boka is also up for Outstanding Service this year), Boehm and Katz would probably be happy even if they weren't finalists again in this category. Their restaurant group includes such standouts as Stephanie Izard's Girl & the Goat, Momotaro, and GT Fish & Oyster, whose chef Giuseppe Tentori appears in the first episode of Dishalicious, on April 6. Boehm and Katz also appeared on Chat, Please! to discuss steakhouses and social media.
Rising Star Chef of the Year – Sarah Rinkavage
WTTW doesn't have anything about Rinkavage or Marisol yet, but since Rinkavage is a rising star, we're sure to soon!