For the first time in 25 years, the James Beard Awards took place outside of New York City. The “Oscars of Food” celebrating the best in cuisine, wine, cocktails and design migrated to the Second City, the Mecca of the Midwest, Chicago. And the Windy City put on a chic, decadent display. The city came alive with James Beard Award-focused parties, events, special dinners and celebrations. From the Gold Coast to the South Loop, you couldn’t throw a petit four without hitting a top chef.
We are proud to say that three of Reserve’s Chicago restaurant partners were nominated for the coveted James Beard Award, which culminated in a grand gala at the Lyric Opera House on Monday, May 4:
Best Restaurant Design (75 seats or under): Brindille
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Tanya Baker, The Boarding House
Best Chef, Great Lakes: Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia
And one of these fabulous restaurant partners walked out a winner! Tom Nahabedian and James Gorski of the Bureau of Architecture and Design won the James Beard for Best Restaurant Design for their absolutely beautiful Brindille. Tom Nahabedian is part of the culinary powerhouse family, the Nahabedians. His cousin Carrie Nahabedian won the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Great Lakes in 2008, and their sister restaurant, NAHA, has earned its Michelin star three years in a row.
Three James Beard Awards will also remain in Chicago. The dapper Donnie Madia walked away as Outstanding Restaurateur for One-Off Hospitality (Blackbird, Big Star, the Publican and Avec), and the accolades didn’t stop there. One-Off’s mixology-driven lounge, the Violet Hour, won for Outstanding Bar Program. In one of the most moving moments of the night, Lettuce Entertain You’s Chairman and Founder, Richard Melman, earned the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by his three hard-working children, RJ, Jerrod and Molly. Hard to believe that R.J. Grunt’s, a hamburger joint that opened in Lincoln Park in 1971, led to the entire Lettuce Entertain You empire.
Other Chicago highlights of the evening (besides mixing, mingling and hobknobbing with the likes of Andrew Zimmern, Daniel Boulud, Rick Bayless, Lidia Bastianich, Grant Achatz and our new favorite, Farmer Lee Jones) included Alton Brown’s mad hosting skills and a whimsical little comedy spoof, thanks to Second City Chicago.
The Reserve team was honored to attend the 25th Annual James Beard Awards (and Chicago’s first). Congratulations to all of our nominated restaurant partners across the country, of whom we couldn’t be more proud.
Erica Levin Kane, General Manager, Reserve Chicago