The James Beard Awards are returning this year for the first time since 2020, and the list of semifinalists has been released. Fifteen Chicago people and places are semifinalists for the Awards, which are some of the most prominent food industry awards in America. The Awards ceremony will once again take place in Chicago at the Lyric Opera, on June 13. Finalists will be announced on April 27.
Here are Chicago's semifinalists.
Jason Vincent, Giant: Vincent came from Jason Hammel's Lula Cafe and opened this acclaimed and inventive Logan Square spot in 2017.
Parachute - Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark won Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2019, and now their flagship modern Korean restaurant in Avondale is up for Outstanding Restaurant. They've been busy since their last Award: they opened a new, ultra-seasonal restaurant near Parachute called Wherewithall; Kim founded a nonprofit to support working mothers in the food industry called The Abundance Setting; and they have gone through all of the pandemic-forced changes that everyone else in the industry has endured. Parachute is temporarily closed right now.
Oriole - Chef Noah Sandoval of Oriole has been nominated several times for Best Chef: Great Lakes (and he's again a semifinalist), but this is the first time his restaurant is up for Outstanding Restaurant. Oriole underwent a renovation during the pandemic. It is one of five two-Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago.
Best New Restaurant
Kasama - This Filipino restaurant and bakery has received tons of acclaim since opening in West Town, including a nod on The New York Times' 2021 Restaurant List. Genie Kwon's pastries and her husband Tim Flores' dishes have drawn people to their breakfasts and a new tasting menu.
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Shannah Primiano, Porto - This Portuguese restaurant in West Town opened just a few months before the pandemic but still managed to garner a Michelin star in 2021. Primiano's bold desserts have incorporated such creative elements as jamón Ibérico ice cream.
Maya-Camille Broussard, Justice of the Pies - The self-taught Broussard founded Justice of the Pies in 2014 and runs her bakery out of The Hatchery in East Garfield Park. She was recognized by the Illinois Department of Tourism in 2020, and her nonprofit/for-profit hybrid business supports a culinary program run by her for young people in low-income communities as well as an organization that serves low-income individuals negatively impacted by the criminal justice system. The bakery's name is a play on Justice of the Peace, befitting its social mission.
Outstanding Bar Program
Nobody's Darling - This new Andersonville bar is female-owned and queer-friendly and is named after an Alice Walker poem. Renauda Riddle and Angela Barnes try to feature alcohol from Black-owned, women-owned, and queer-owned businesses, and aim to be inclusive of everyone.
Best Chef: Great Lakes
Rodolfo Cuadros, Amaru and Bloom Plant Based Kitchen - The pan-Latin Wicker Park restaurant Amaru was joined by the vegan- and vegetarian-friendly Bloom Plant Based Kitchen in 2021. Like all restaurants, Amaru had its struggles during the pandemic, as Cuadros explained to WTTW News in May, 2020, but remains well-liked.
Diana Dávila Boldin, Mi Tocaya Antojería - Like so many other chefs, including fellow semifinalists Beverly Kim of Parachute and Erick Williams of Virtue, Dávila Boldin reassessed her business during the pandemic and engaged heavily in charitable work, running a free meal program called Todos Ponen ("Everyone contributes"). Her Logan Square Mexican restaurant has been a local and national favorite for several years now, and was featured in PBS's No Passport Required show with Marcus Samuelsson. She has been nominated for Best Chef: Great Lakes before.
Paul Fehribach, Big Jones - Fehribach is a perennial Best Chef: Great Lakes semifinalist but has yet to reach the list of finalist nominees. His Andersonville restaurant features heritage Southern food.
Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe - Hammel was a first-time nominee in 2019 but is a long-time Chicago favorite for his seasonal Logan Square restaurant.
Dave Park, Jeong - Jeong received critical acclaim when it opened in West Town a few years ago, and Dave Park's modern Korean in an elegant space continues to win rave reviews.
Darnell Reed, Luella’s Southern Kitchen - Luella's Southern Kitchen is, as its name suggests, a Southern restaurant in Lincoln Square that has long been a hotspot, especially on weekend mornings.
Noah Sandoval, Oriole - Sandoval has been nominated several times before, and this is the first time his restaurant is up for Outstanding Restaurant (see above).
John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth - Smyth won Restaurant of the Year at Chicago's homegrown Jean Banchet Awards in 2020, and is another one of Chicago's two Michelin-starred restaurant.
Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant & Bar - Chef Erick Williams's reputation blew up in 2019, with his Hyde Park restaurant Virtue named a best new restaurant by both Eater and Esquire. Williams himself was named one of "16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America" by The New York Times. He is committed to training young chefs of color, as he told WTTW, and prepared meals for frontline workers and shelters throughout the pandemic. He also recently opened Mustard Seed Kitchen, a takeout-only restaurant on the Near South Side.