For the first time in its 25-year history, the James Beard Awards, which concluded Monday night, were held not in New York City but in Chicago. And boy, did Chicago roll out the red carpet for the restaurant awards. (The journalism and book awards took place in New York the previous week.)
Banners along Michigan Avenue’s “magnificent mile” welcomed the 25th annual James Beard Awards. Chicago restaurants gave parties the weekend before the Monday night ceremony, so many that Uber seemed to be always on surge pricing as attendees moved from venue to venue. The smart ones walked — and logged in the miles in this very walkable city.
And that was just part of one afternoon. Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini was in town wearing a vest in the colors of the Italian flag, red pants — and red Crocs. “Never orange!” he said, laughing. He put out a lavish spread at
And everybody had to try Chicago’s restaurants. Some had made reservations for Alinea’s 10th anniversary dinner. Some had a Chicago steakhouse on their lists, the cheeseburger at
The awards were held last night at the Lyric Opera House of Chicago — quite a step up from the dreary Lincoln Center venue of old. And as the nominees lined up to run the press gantlet and be duly photographed in front of a background with the James Beard Foundation logo, there were shout outs, hugs, well wishes — a warm moment of glamour for a hardworking, hard-sweating profession. It's always fun to see young chefs sporting tuxedos and fedoras, gowns and jewels.
Inside, once everyone had taken their seats, Alton Brown started things off playing a (red) electric guitar and belting out an homage to meat "and the meat goes on," based, of course, on the Sonny & Cher song. "Vegans try to tempt me with kale pie. And the meat goes on." You get the idea.
Los Angeles may not have taken home any major chef awards last night, but we did have one big moment when Fernando Lopez and his wife, Maria de Jesus, came onstage to accept an America's Classics for their Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza.
While the ceremony was going on (and on), the gala chefs and their crews were setting up downstairs and on the mezzanine with an army of young cooking students and workers to help. From L.A., Nancy Silverton (last year’s Outstanding Chef award winner) and
Invitations to after parties had gone out weeks before and outside, tuxes and gowns piled into taxis and SUVs headed to one or the other or all. At Frontera Grill,