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James Beard Awards Announced Finalists, & Chicago Got Kind Of Screwed

By Anthony Todd in Food on Mar 15, 2017 6:37PM

Topolobampo, via Instagram

Last month, the James Beard Foundation announced the semi-finalists for their annual "Oscars of Food," and plenty of Chicago restaurants got the nod. The field has now been narrowed, as the finalists were announced today.

As would be expected, a lot of the Chicago entries got cut out when we got to the finals, though this year was quite a slaughter. Oriole, Smyth and Roister were up for Best New Restaurant; none made it to the finals. Lost Lake dropped out of the Best Bar Program category, leaving nothing from Chicago. Tony Mantuano and Carrie Nahabedian didn't make it to the finals for Outstanding Chef, leaving none from Chicago. Boka and North Pond didn't make it for Outstanding Service, leaving none from Chicago. Sepia didn't make it for Outstanding Wine Program, leaving none from Chicago. Seeing a theme here?

We weren't totally cut out. Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread is still in the running for Best Baker, and Momotaro is still up for a design award. Topolobampo is still up for Outstanding Restaurant, and Jenner Tomaska is still up for Rising Star. Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of Boka Group are finalists for Outstanding Restauranteur. But our place in the national Beard Awards is pretty minimal.

On the other hand, my theory of how Chicago needs its own category, instead of being lumped into Best Chef: Great Lakes, was dramatically confirmed; all five finalists are from Chicago, leaving the entirety of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio (not to mention the rest of Illinois) totally off the ballot. The list, however, is pretty great. The finalists include:

Abraham Conlon - Fat Rice

Sarah Grueneberg - Monteverde

Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark - Parachute

Lee Wolen - Boka

Erling Wu-Bower - Nico Osteria

Good luck to all of the (remaining) local nominees. The awards will be announced on May 1.