The James Beard Foundation has been intimately associated with New York City. After all, that was the city Beard himself called home, and in fact, it was the effort to save his old brownstone that led to the organization’s formation in 1986.
But next year for the first time, the organization’s annual gala awards show, which some call the Academy Awards of food, will be taking its show on the road. Instead of its familiar Lincoln Center location, the 2015 Beard Awards -- the 25th anniversary edition -- will be held in Chicago, at the Lyric Opera House.
Credit an impressive sales job by Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's mayor and a former Obama chief of staff, says Beard Foundation president Susan Ungaro. “The incredible passion and enthusiasm of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in wanting to host our foundation in Chicago was ultimately irresistible,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
“There is no greater honor for a restaurant than recognition with a Beard Foundation award, and there is no greater honor for Chicago’s culinary community than the decision to host the awards here,” Emanuel said in a statement.
Chicago restaurants and chefs have had a good run at the Beard Awards, taking home wins in various categories in 23 of the last 24 years. Four Chicago chefs have been selected outstanding chef of the year: Rick Bayless, the late Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz and Paul Kahan.
This year’s outstanding chef was Mozza’s Nancy Silverton, the first from Los Angeles since Wolfgang Puck tied for it in 1998.
Only the restaurant portion of the Beard awards will be moving. The foundation's book, broadcast and journalism awards will remain in New York.