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Chicago's 'Local Food Oscars' Nominations Are Here

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 2, 2015 6:13PM

Antipasti at Formento's, a nominee for Best Chef de Cuisine (Photo by Kailley Lindman)
Nominations for the 2015 Jean Banchet Awards (what the Tribune calls the "local food Oscars") came out this morning. Unlike the James Beard Awards or the Michelin Stars, the Jean Banchet Awards are curated by a panel of food writers, and so they are an interesting look into what the experts on the local scene consider noteworthy.

The awards, named for a prominent Chicago-based french chef who died in 2013, are given to chefs and restaurants across a number of categories. Notably, they also split several categories into a "main" and a "rising star" category, allowing newer restaurants and younger chefs to get some attention. They also include a best chef de cuisine category, so chefs who actually run a restaurant day-to-day (even without the title of Executive Chef) can get some love. There's even a best ethnic restaurant category this year.

Ten local food writers (the list of writers doesn't include me, but their identities are a relatively open secret) come up with the list: a different model than other awards that come from anonymous inspectors or from national experts. Perhaps this explains all of the attention given to the less glamorous (but still great) entries on the list, like Fat Rice (up for Restaurant of the Year), Jason Vaughn of Pub Royale (up for Rising Chef of the Year), Boeufhaus (Best New Restaurant) and mfk (best neighborhood restaurant). Awesome places not lucky enough to get Michelin attention, like Vera, Formento's, Tete Charcuterie and Salero are all over this list, which makes it worth watching for people who actually dine in the city.

The awards are voted on by restaurant industry insiders, and will be announced at a ceremony on January 17. The full list is available at the Tribune.