Long-Awaited Triumphs At James Beard Awards

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 8, 2012 1:30PM

2012_5_8_JamesBeard.jpg It was a great night for Chicago at the James Beard Awards, the Academy Awards of the restaurant world. In March, Chicago swept the nominations for Best Chef: Great Lakes (with 4/5 nominations for Chicago chefs), but we couldn't have predicted the final results. Bruce Sherman, of North Pond, won Best Chef: Great Lakes and Mindy Segal, of Hot Chocolate, won Outstanding Pastry Chef. Sherman has received six prior nominations and Segal has gotten seven, and they both finally made it.

Sherman told Steve Dolinsky that he didn't expect to win. "It started with me forgetting tickets to the event, I had to get a will-call ticket, I doored someone when I got out of the taxi, I forgot the buttons for my shirt, things weren't looking good for me." Sherman attributed his win to persistence and stamina - continuing to do good work, year after year. His response to the award on Twitter was somewhat less restrained: "I won I won I won!!! Thought the day would never come. Thank goodness I'm wrong. This time! Go Team." If you want to learn more about Chef Sherman, check out our interview with him.

Sherman wasn't the only long-frustrated Chicago chef to finally win. Segal—the Susan Lucci of the Beard Awards—has been nominated seven years in a row. Segal finally won, though 312 Dining Diva reported that she was unable to make it to the awards. According to Twitter, it was the old fairy tale story for Segal: just going about her day and suddenly, she's a winner. "I was on my way to Joanne fabric! Instead I got the beard award for outstanding pastry chef! Bless you everyone!"

In another big win for Chicago, Next won Best New Restaurant, though Next Chef Dave Beran lost in the "Rising Star" category. The Violet Hour and The Aviary were robbed in the brand-new Outstanding Bar Program category, and Spiaggia and Topolabampo lost out in the Outstanding service category. Grant Achatz and Charlie Trotter won honorary awards; Achatz was inducted into the Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America and Trotter won the Humanitarian Award.