If you have ever had the pleasure of planning a vacation to Chicago, or better yet, fortunate enough to live in Chicago, then you know the first thing that you need to have…is a healthy appetite. Chicago is not a destination, it’s an experience, a culinary experience to be exact. With Chicago having so many Top Chefs, award-winning restaurants, food trucks, festivals, ethnic markets, distilleries, cooking classes, local food artisans and farmers, it was really no surprise that last night Chicago would play host for the second time in a row to the Oscars of Food… The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala.
The event took place at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and was also available on Live Stream. Co-Host of ABC’s The Chew, Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen, Top Chef Finalist, Owner of Carla Hall Petite Cookies, Author, and Celebrity Chef…Carla Hall, mesmerized the audience with her infectious bubbly personality.
The James Beard Awards are the highest honor for culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields, including but not limited to, chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook authors, and food journalists. The highlight of the evening was the representation of female chefs in an industry that seems to be primarily male dominated, with Joanne Chang of Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café winning for Outstanding Baker, Dahlia Narvaez of L.A.’s Osteria Mozza for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Suzanne Goin of L.A.’s Lucques for Outstanding Chef, and Daniela Soto-Innes of NYC’s Cosme for Rising Star Chef. This is the only the second time all three major chef awards have gone to women, the first was in 2004.
Another highlight of the evening was the Queen of Creole, Culinary Legend, New Orleans Chef Leah Chase of Dooky Chase, accepted this year’s Lifetime Achievement award. Chef Leah Chase is the first African-American Beard Lifetime Achievement Award winner. “I don’t know how I got here, but this gives me courage to keep going,” said Chase. “I’m 93 years old…and this gives me courage to keep going for about 10, 12 more years.”
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees. For a complete list of winners click here. And just in case you were wondering…The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will return to Chicago next year. See ya there!