For the second year in a row, Chicago chefs and restaurants did not capture as many James Beard Awards as they had hoped. One of the night's biggest awards - Outstanding Restaurant in the Country - went to Daniel Boulud, for his namesake restaurant, Daniel; Chicago's Spiaggia was one of the co-nominees. Mindy Segal appeared to be a favorite for Outstanding Pastry Chef in the Country for her work at Hot Chocolate in Bucktown, but the award went instead to Nicole Plue of Redd in Yountville, California. Richard Melman had been nominated yet again for Outstanding Restaurateur, but the award went to the prolific Keith McNally of New York City.
Chicago's Koren Grieveson did manage to take home the Best Chef: Great Lakes award, for her work at Avec, while Alinea picked up the Best Service award. The "America's Classics" awards - announced several weeks ago - included Calumet Fisheries, a 62-year old fish shack near the 95th St. bridge in Calumet.
Avec's Koren Grieveson - Best Chef: Great Lakes
Gotta hand it to the James Beard Awards. What started out two decades ago as a way to recognize the best restaurants, chefs and cookbooks, has turned into an all-glamour, star-studded (if you think Wolfgang Puck is a star) event. Moved from the dowdy Marriot Marquis in Times Square a few years ago, the event is now held at Lincoln Center, complete with the phalanx of cameras and reporters camped out front, hoping to have a few words with "Iron Chef" Michael Symon or Andrew Zimmern.
Last night, as I reported, only two Chicago winners brought home the Beard: Cliff Doerksen from The Chicago Reader and Kevin Pang from chicagotribune.com. Tonight, a handful of locals are poised (fingers crossed) to take home their own Beards: HotChocolate's Mindy Segal is up for Best Pastry Chef in the country, and Spiaggia is back again to attempt to claim the most coveted prize of the night - Best Restaurant in the Country.
I'll be blogging live from the event tonight, grabbing interviews with any and all Chicago-area winners.