Chicago’s Exciting Food Scene & the Upcoming James Beard Awards

Chicago, an international food destination, is once again hosting the prestigious James Beard Awards on June 3-5. To buy tickets, see below. Chicago also recently was recognized by Food & Wine’s new Global Tastemakers Awards in the following categories:

○ 10 Best Cities for Neighborhood Restaurants in the U.S. (#4)
○ The Best Cities for Food in the U.S. (#6)
○ The 10 Best Bars in the U.S. (The Violet Hour, #10)
○ The 5 Most Creative Bars in the U.S. (The Violet Hour, #1, The Aviary, #2)

James Beard Awards 2023: full list of Chicago nominees

Big Jones Restaurant chef and owner, Paul Fehribach was recognized as a nominee for Best Chef in the Midwest, 2023 by the James Beard Foundation. When he is not in the kitchen, Fehribach has been writing his multi-year cookbook project Midwestern Food: A Chef’s Guide to the Surprising History of a Great American Cuisine available for purchase in mid-October 2023 from local booksellers online and at Big Jones.

The prestigious James Beard Awards will be returning to Chicago to honor the best restaurants and chefs in America on June 5, 2023. The list of Chicago semifinalist contenders include:

Smyth: Outstanding Restaurant 

One of the James Beard Awards’ highest honors, Outstanding Restaurant recognizes establishments that “demonstrate consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, and hospitality.” Helmed by husband-and-wife duo John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, this tasting menu spot is grounded in pristine products and produce grown in close collaboration with small farms. The menu, which evolves constantly, is served in a welcoming atmosphere with an open kitchen, so guests can watch the chef’s creativity in action.

Damarr Brown, VirtueEmerging Chef

Last year, executive chef Erick Williams of Virtue took from the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. This year, his chef de cuisine Damarr Brown is being recognized for displaying “exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability”. Brown, a fan favorite on Top Chef, has been demonstrating his culinary expertise in Virtue’s kitchen in the Hyde Park neighborhood, composing elegant versions of classic Southern American dishes.

Khmai Cambodian Fine Dining: Best New Restaurant

A hidden gem no more, Khmai has received local and national acclaim for its authentic Cambodian cuisine. Executive chef Mona Sang draws on her Cambodian heritage to compose the restaurant’s weekly menus, which are all served family style for the entire table to enjoy. Khmai is located in the Rogers Park neighborhood — be sure to make a reservation before you go.

Obélix: Best New Restaurant

Chicago is home to a plethora of excellent French restaurants, but Obélix has still managed to stand out from the pack. The intimate space in River North serves up elevated takes on modern French fare. Diners will find favorites like French onion soup, escargots, and steak frites, alongside creative dishes like foie gras macarons, lobster crepes, and confit squab.

Sepia: Outstanding Hospitality

A longtime favorite in the West Loop neighborhood, this venerable institution has earned this nomination for “fostering a sense of hospitality among its customers and staff that serves as a beacon for the community”. The menu melds rustic and refined elements in a way that’s both classic and approachable. The four-course tasting menu offers various options, including sourdough cavatelli, truffle fried chicken, dry-aged beef striploin, and more.

All Together Now: Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program

This funky space in the West Town neighborhood is a jack of all trades — wine shop, cheese counter, intimate restaurant, and community gathering space. You can grab some small plates at happy hour, enjoy a weekend brunch, load up on ingredients for the perfect charcuterie board, or just kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy the laidback vibes.

These regional accolades recognize chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, while contributing positively to their broader community. The following Chicago chefs have been nominated for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2023:

● North America’s 50 Best Bars named Kumiko and Milk Room to their 2023 list.

James Beard Events

2023 James Beard Awards

June 3-5, 2023

Contact Host

Chicago, IL, USA

2023 James Beard Awards

For more than 30 years, the James Beard Awards, among the nation’s most prestigious honors, have recognized leaders in the culinary and food media industries. This summer, nominees and Award winners will be honored through a weekend of events sure to be the industry’s and food lovers’ highlight of the year, gathering nearly 1,500 of the country’s top chefs, restaurateurs, food media, and culinary enthusiasts in Chicago with millions more tuning in live and on TV. More than 70 Awards will recognize excellence in the categories of restaurants and chefs, books, broadcast media, journalism, leadership, and lifetime achievements.

Join us as we celebrate excellence and community while recognizing our rich and diverse culinary heritage and those who tell its story.

James Beard Media Awards
Saturday, June 3 at 5:00 P.M. CT, Columbia College Chicago

A theater-style seated awards ceremony honoring broadcast media, cookbook, and journalism nominees from around the country. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony, highlighting chefs and other luminaries, including those from the Chicago culinary scene. 400 guests are expected.

James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards
Monday, June 5 at 6:00 P.M. CT, Lyric Opera of Chicago

This Academy Awards-style event will feature red carpet arrivals and an awards ceremony honoring the best of the best in the restaurant and chef industry. This premier event will be broadcast live. 1,650 guests are expected.

James Beard Post-Awards Celebration
Monday, June 5 at 9:00 P.M. CT, Chicago Union Station

A walk-around tasting reception held at Union Station will immediately follow the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards. Attended by over 1,600 chefs, restaurateurs, food media, and culinary enthusiasts, the event will feature food and beverage stations highlighting chefs from around the country.

Reservation Policy: All reservations are non-refundable.

Please reach out to with any questions. To order tickets, click here.

About the James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.

Chicago Gourmet 2020 Food Festival

For those who love Chicago’s wonderful food scene, this September is the time to enjoy one of the country’s best food festivals, Chicago Gourmet. Going on now until the end of the month, Chicago Gourmet organizers at the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA), the event’s founding sponsor – along with presenting sponsor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits – are offering a safe and spectacularly curated schedule showcasing Chicago’s diverse culinary offerings. Reservations and tickets are now available at

To help those impacted by the pandemic, this year the IRA is formally introducing the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, a new beneficiary of this year’s events. This recently established fund provides one-time, emergency cash relief to qualifying restaurant workers experiencing unforeseen hardships as a result of COVID-19. Funds raised through Chicago Gourmet will go toward providing necessary relief to  those with critical need.

Chicago area star chefs and leading restaurants are embracing this year’s innovative format and community focus by volunteering their time, enthusiasm and expertise to the festival’s many programs. This September is a win-win for all. Food fans can enjoy a range of experiences and support the those harmed by the pandemic. Chicago Gourmet represents the best of this world class city–its caring and its wonderfully creative food scene. Here’s what going on:

Can’t Stop the Hop Presented by DoorDash

The official kick-off to Chicago Gourmet every year, the popular Hamburger Hop expands beyond Millennium Park in 2020 with Can’t Stop the Hop presented by DoorDash, the nation’s leading last-mile logistics platform. This year, 100 chef competitors offer tasty burgers for dine-in, delivery or carry out from September 1-13. Food lovers are encouraged to hop around town, or visit the DoorDash app or website, and try as many burgers as possible, and based on flavor and overall presentation, they will vote on their favorite at

The champion will be announced the week of September 14 and will receive a magnum of fine wine from Josh Cellars, a Yeti cooler filled with premium meat and seafood from Buckhead Meat of Chicago and bragging rights for a lifetime.

$1 of every burger sold benefits the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Click here for a list of participants. Additional sponsors include Buckhead Meat of Chicago, Turano Baking Co., Blue Moon, Josh Cellars, High West Distillery and Choose Chicago.

As part of this partnership, DoorDash will feature an in-app carousel for customers nearby select participating restaurants  to order their burgers for on-demand delivery and pickup.

Go Gourmet Dinner and Virtual Series

Go Gourmet Dinner Series Presented by UnitedHealthcare. Intimate. Delicious. Memorable. Chicago Gourmet’s Go Gourmet Dinner Series Presented by UnitedHealthcare includes special, in-person events curated with love by many of the city’s most beloved chefs. Held on various dates between September 14-30, fans can revel in outstanding, multi-course dinners paired with wine and spirit selections courtesy of Unshackled by the Prisoner Wine Company, Legent Bourbon and more. The lineup includes:

  • Monday, September 14 – Wednesday, September 16 & Monday, September 21 – Wednesday, September 23: Chefs Laura, Kelly + Michael Cheng, Sun Wah BBQ
  • Tuesday, September 15: Chef Jose Sosa, Gibsons Italia
  • Wednesday, September 16: Chef Carlos Gaytán, Tzuco – With special guest chefs Gaby Ruiz from Carmela & Sal (Mexico City) and Gourmet MX (Villahermosa, Tabasco); Rodrigo Estrada from Agua & Sal (Mexico City) and Yemanyá (Mexico City); and Benito Molina from Manzanilla (Ensenada, Baja California) to commemorate Mexican Independence Day
  • Thursday, September 17: Chef Kevin Hickey, The Duck Inn
  • Sunday, September 20: Chef Erick Williams, Virtue
  • Monday, September 21: Chef Norman Bolden, Norman’s Bistro
  • Tuesday, September 22: Chef Tony Priolo, Piccolo Sogno
  • Wednesday, September 23: Chef Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde
  • Thursday, September 24: A special collaboration between Chef Cedric Harden, River Roast, and Chef Carolina Diaz, Terzo Piano (held at River Roast)
  • Wednesday, September 30: Chef Mari Katsumura, Yūgen

Reservations can be made directly with participating restaurants. To see the full lineup and reservations information, visit Prices and times vary per restaurant. All will adhere to current occupancy orders and health and safety guidelines.

Go Gourmet Virtual Series. Chicago Gourmet’s Go Gourmet Virtual Series invites celebrity chefs right into one’s home kitchen LIVE as they lead engaging cooking classes between September 14-30. Fans can purchase tickets to simply watch, or better yet, they can order meal kits in advance from anywhere in the U.S. to cook along and learn in real time. Meal kits arrive with ingredients to create a feast for four. Each live demonstration will also feature suggested beverage pairings and education from Campari / Aperol Spritz and JUSTIN Wines. The virtual schedule includes:

  • Monday, September 14: Chef Art Smith, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden
  • Wednesday, September 16: Chef Lorena Garcia, Lorena Garcia Cocina/Lorena Garcia Tapas
  • Thursday, September 17: Chef Thai Dang, HaiSous/Cà Phê Đá
  • Friday, September 18: Chef Fabio Viviani, Siena Tavern/Prime & Provisions/Bar Siena
  • Sunday, September 20: Chef Kwame Onwuachi
  • Tuesday, September 22: Chef Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo/XOCO/Tortazo/Bar Sótano
  • Saturday, September 26: Chef Jernard Wells, The Family Chef
  • Sunday, September 27: Chef Stephanie Izard, Girl & the Goat/Little Goat Diner/Duck Duck Goat/Cabra
  • Tuesday, September 29: Chef Jeff Mauro, The Kitchen/Sandwich King

All Go Gourmet events benefit the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. In addition to those named above, the series is made possible thanks to Mariano’s, US Foods, Bank of America, Gordon Foodservice, Performance Foodservice, Choose Chicago, Pepsi, Coker Service Inc. and Coca-Cola.

Online Auction

Let the bidding begin! The Chicago Gourmet annual online auction goes live September 14-30. Featuring an impressive collection of wine, spirits and dinner experiences underwritten by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, one hundred percent of proceeds from the auction benefit the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The non-profit organization – which has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships since its inception – provides mentoring, job training and financial support for the next generation of aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals.  

Chicago Gourmet 2020’s media partners include NBC 5 Chicago/Telemundo Chicago, JC Deceaux, 93XRT, 101.9 The Mix and Chicago magazine.


Visit for details, reservations and tickets.

# # #

ABOUT CHICAGO GOURMET. Chicago Gourmet, the nation’s premier culinary experience, returns for its 13th year September 2020. Created by the Illinois Restaurant Association to honor Chicago’s culinary achievements and the creative vision of the chefs, Master Sommeliers, and wine-, spirit-, and beer-makers who participate, it spotlights Chicago as an international culinary destination via its unparalleled epicurean talent. The 2020 event supports the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) and the IRAEF’s newly established Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Chicago Gourmet is possible with the support of presenting sponsor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. For more information, please visit and follow on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

ABOUT SOUTHERN GLAZER’S WINE & SPIRITS. Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits is the world’s pre-eminent distributor of beverage alcohol, and proud to be a multi-generational, family-owned company. The Company has operations in 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Canada, and the Caribbean, and employs more than 20,000 team members. Southern Glazer’s urges all retail customers and adult consumers to market, sell, serve, and enjoy its products responsibly. For more information visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @sgwinespirits and on Facebook at

ABOUT DOORDASH. DoorDash is a technology company that connects customers with their favorite local and national businesses in more than 4,000 cities and all 50 states across the United States, Canada, and Australia. Founded in 2013, DoorDash empowers merchants to grow their businesses by helping to solve mission-critical challenges, such as customer acquisition, on-demand delivery, insights and analytics, merchandising, payment processing, and customer support. By building the last-mile delivery logistics platform for local cities, DoorDash is bringing communities closer, one doorstep at a time. Read more on the DoorDash blog or at

ABOUT THE ILLINOIS RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION. Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois. The IRA owns and produces Chicago Gourmet – the annual food and wine festival uniting hundreds of restaurants, chefs and beverage experts for a weekend filled with food and drink tastings, entertainment, cooking demonstrations, book signings, interactive seminars and more. For more information about the Illinois Restaurant Association, visit and follow on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

ABOUT THE ILLINOIS RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (IRAEF) RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE RELIEF FUND. Established in 2020, the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund is statewide emergency assistance fund that provides one-time direct financial support to restaurant industry workers facing unforeseen hardship as a result of COVID-19. Grants help cover basic living expenses such as rent, food and utilities as someone works through crisis. Donate here now.

ABOUT THE ILLINOIS RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION. The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) dedicated to building the Illinois hospitality workforce through career exploration, workforce development programs and scholarships. It has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships since its inception. For more information, visit