It was worth the wait.
After years of being nominated in the category of outstanding service by the James Beard Awards (considered the Oscars of the culinary world), and after wins for outstanding chef, outstanding podcast and humanitarian of the year, Chicago’s Rick Bayless finally took home the award for outstanding restaurant of the year for his tony Topolobampo, at Monday night’s gala awards ceremony at the Civic Opera House. It was the first time the restaurant had been nominated in the category, but the second such win for a Bayless eatery. His Frontera Grill won the award in 2007.
The award’s announcement came from Chicago chef/restaurateur and multiple James Beard Award-winner Grant Achatz of Next and Alinea fame.
In accepting his award, a visibly moved Bayless was surrounded on stage by his restaurant team and his wife of nearly three decades, Deann. “I’m incredibly honored,” Bayless said. “[When] we opened our restaurant, my wife and I just wanted to bring some of the heart and soul that people had shared with us in Mexico, and share it with people in this country.”
Thanking his wife, Bayless commented: None of this would be possible without Deann. She has been the true heart of our restaurant since the day we opened. … I’m so incredibly honored.”
In the category of best chef Great Lakes region, it was a Chicago love fest, with all five nominations going to Chicago top toques. In the end, executive chef/owner Sarah Grueneberg of the Monteverde contemporary Italian eatery on west Madison Street, took home the award. The other four nominees in the category included Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark of Parachute, Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice, Lee Wolen of Boka and Erling Wu-Bower of Nico Osteria.
In accepting her award, Grueneberg was all smiles.
“Thank you. I didn’t plan a speech. I just want to say thank you to [Spiaggia chef/owner] Tony Mantuano who taught me everything about Italian food. … And to Chicago and all the chefs, I love you! You’re all amazing! Thank you!”
Grueneberg is also competing on this season of “Iron Chef Gauntlet” on the Food Network (along with fellow Chicagoan Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat). They are among five remaining competitors vying for the ultimate title of Iron Chef. The series airs Sunday nights on the network.
Other highlights among the evening’s winners include Michael Solomonov of Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia who won outstanding chef; Le Coucou in New York was named best new restaurant; Ghaya Oliveira of New York City’s Daniel restaurant won outstanding pastry chef; Zachary Engel of New Orleans’ Shaya won rising star chef honors. Denise Cerreta of One World Everybody Eats in Salt Lake City was named Humanitarian of the Year.
The evening was hosted by actor/food blogger Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”).
Here’s the complete list of 2017 James Beard Award winners:
2017 James Beard Foundation Restaurant Design Awards
75 Seats and Under (For the best restaurant design or renovation in North America since January 1, 2014)
Designers: Kristina O’Neal, William Harris, Adam Farmerie, and Greg Bradshaw
Project: SingleThread, Healdsburg, California
76 Seats and Over (For the best restaurant design or renovation in NorthAmerica since January 1, 2014)
Firm: Meyer Davis
Designers: Will Meyer, Gray Davis, and Katie McPherson
Project: St. Cecilia, Atlanta
Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant NYC
Best New Restaurant
A restaurant opened in the calendar year before the award will be given that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.
A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries, or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been working as a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.
Mark Furstenberg, Bread Furst, Washington, D.C.
Outstanding Bar Program
A restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence in cocktail, spirits, and/or beer service.
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans
A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Must have been working as a chef for the past five years.
Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia
Outstanding Pastry Chef
A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads in a restaurant, and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence. Must have been working as a pastry chef or baker for the past five years.
Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, NYC
A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.
A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Mustnot have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past five years.
Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants (Le Coucou, Serpico, Upland, and others), Philadelphia
A restaurant in operation five or more years that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Outstanding Wine Program
A restaurant in operation five or more years that serves as a standard bearer for excellence in wineservice through a well-presented wine list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine.
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
A beer, wine, or spirits professional who has made a significant national impacton the restaurant industry.
Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
Rising Star Chef of the Year
A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.
Zachary Engel, Shaya, New Orleans
Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Eligible candidates may be from any kind of dining establishment and must have been working as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years spent in the region.
Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde, Chicago
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)
Marco Canora, Hearth
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, MH, NY STATE, RI, VT)
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton and Greg Denton, Ox, Portland, OR
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR)
Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, New Orleans
Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta
Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)
Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
Best Chef: West (CA, HI, NV)
Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco
2017 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees
Roger Berkowitz, President and CEO, Legal Sea Foods, Boston
Suzanne Goin, Multiple James Beard Award-Winning Chef and Restaurateur, A.O.C., Lucques, and Tavern, Los Angeles
Evan Kleiman, Culinarian; Host of KCRW’s Good Food, Los Angeles
Michel Nischan, Multiple James Beard Award-Winning Chef; Founder, President, and CEO, Wholesome Wave, Bridgeport, CT
Rajat Parr, Domaine de la Cote, Lompac, CA
2017 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics
Bertha’s Kitchen, Charleston, SC; Owners: Julia Grant, Linda Pinckney and Sharon Coakley
Gioia’s Deli, St. Louis, Owner: Alex Donley
La Taqueria, San Francisco, Owner: Miguel Jara
Sahadi’s, Brooklyn, NY, Owners: ChristineSahadi Whelan, and Ron Sahadi
Schultz’s Crab House, Essex, MD, Owners: Chrissy Burkman, Stephanie Kell, Jason McKinney, Michelle McKinney, Robert A. McKinney Jr., and Stephen McKinney
2017 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year
Denise Cerreta, One World Everybody Eats, Salt Lake City
2017 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award
Nora Pouillon, Restaurant Nora, Washington, D.C.