Chicago chefs sweep category in 2020 James Beard Award nominations

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the news came via an online ceremony on what would have been the date for the annual gala awards ceremony announcing the winners in Chicago at the Lyric Opera House.

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The James Beard Award nominees were announced Monday in a virtual ceremony.

The James Beard Award nominees were announced Monday in a virtual ceremony.

Sun-Times Media

Some of Chicago’s top toques have been recognized for their culinary excellence as the nominees for the 2020 James Beard Awards were announced Monday in a “virtual” event streamed live via Twitter from Philadelphia.

The news came on what would have been the date for the annual gala awards ceremony announcing the winners in Chicago at the Lyric Opera House. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the mandatory shutdown of all non-essential businesses and large gatherings, those plans were scrapped.

For the fourth time, it was a Chicago sweep in one category, as the six nominees up for best chef Great Lakes Region honors are:

The six finalists were chosen from a list of 20 semifinalists announced in February, which boasted 10 Chicago chefs.

Spiaggia, the legendary flagship restaurant of James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano, received a nomination in the category for outstanding wine program.

An outstanding bar program nomination went to the Logan Square tiki cocktail emporium Lost Lake.

The award news comes amid an unprecedented period in the industry as restaurants find themselves shuttered or shifting to carry-out/pickup/delivery only due to the closure of dining room service by state mandates to help stem the spread of coronavirus. The shutdowns have devastatingly impacted the lives of tens of thousands of restaurant workers across the country.

On its website, the James Beard Foundation explained why it decided to not cancel the 2020 awards outright: “It was clear that those whose work in 2019 led them to be selected as a semifinalist — and perhaps ultimately a nominee or a winner — deserved the recognition they earned.Those we consulted felt the Awards could also offer a glimmer of hope to an industry looking for light in a very dark time.We decided to proceed with a virtual ceremony, announcing the nominees on May 4, the date originally intended for our 30th anniversary ceremony and celebration in Chicago.”

The James Beard Awards are considered by many to be the Oscars of the culinary world.

Also announced Monday were finalists in media/books/journalism categories.

The winners in the chef and restaurant categories will be announced in an online ceremony from Chicago on Sept. 25; media award winners will be announced May 27 on the James Beard Award website.

For the complete list of all category finalists, visit jamesbeard.org.

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