The 2015 James Beard Awards took place in Chicago last night, marking the first time the illustrious event has occurred outside of New York City. Master of Ceremonies Alton Brown led the event merrily through awards, dedications, and performances by blues singer Shemekia Copeland.
Great contributors to the national culinary community received recognition throughout the night. The 2015 Humanitarian of the Year Award went to Michel Nischan, president and CEO of Wholesome Wave, a program that connects families in need with fresh food at affordable prices through a network of farmers’ markets.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed on Richard Melman, the founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. A dedicated restaurateur, Melman’s first Chicago restaurant, RJ Grunts, opened in 1971, and has since expanded into a varied group of more than 100 nationwide. He reflected on his accomplishments, calling his job “the best… a guy like me could ever have.”
While the James Beard Awards made their move to a new city, New York still made quite the showing. Restaurants and chefs from the Big Apple brought home some of the most esteemed awards of the evening, including Best New Restaurant for Bâtard, Outstanding Pastry Chef for Christina Tosi of Momofuku, and Outstanding Chef for Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern. Another big win for the city was in the newly created Outstanding Baker category; that went to Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery.
The Awards’ host city did not walk away empty-handed either. One Off Hospitality of Chicago came away a big winner, with their esteemed cocktail venue The Violet Hour winning Outstanding Bar Program and partner Donnie Madia receiving the award for Outstanding Restaurateur. The Best Chef: Great Lakes category came as an upset when Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland beat out the other four Chicago-based nominees.
A list of winners can be found below:
Outstanding Chef – Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, New York City
Outstanding Restaurant – Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
Best New Restaurant – Bâtard, New York City
Outstanding Baker – Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, New York City
Outstanding Bar Program – The Violet Hour, Chicago
Outstanding Pastry Chef – Christina Tosi of Momofuku, New York City
Outstanding Restaurateur – Donnie Madia of One Off Hospitality Group, Chicago
Outstanding Service – The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional – Rajat Parr of Mina Group, San Francisco
Rising Star Chef of the Year – Jessica Largely of Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif.
Best Chef: Great Lakes – Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland, Ohio
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic – Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore. Md.
Best Chef: Midwest – Gerard Craft of Niche, Clayton, Mo.
Best Chef: Northeast – Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother, Cambridge, Mass.
Best Chef: Northwest – Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, Wash.
Best Chef: New York City – Mark Ladner of Del Posto
Best Chef: West – Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski of State Bird Provisions, San Francisco