Ardis Krainik Theatre in Civic Opera House, home of Lyric Opera of Chicago (photo by dan rest).

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Susan Ungaro, President of the James Beard Foundation (JBF), Don Welsh, President and CEO of Choose Chicago, and Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, to announce last week that the James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and gala reception will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 4, 2015. The event will mark the first year the prestigious JBF Restaurant and Chef Awards Gala will be held outside of New York City.

The news puts the Windy City front and center of the culinary world. “There is no greater honor for a restaurant than recognition with a Beard Foundation award, and there is no greater honor for Chicago’s culinary community than the decision to host the awards here,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Our ability to attract and grow businesses, create thriving communities, and lure more than 48 million tourists a year are a testament to the diversity and quality of Chicago’s incredible restaurants. We are excited to team with the Beard Foundation to highlight the best of the best here and throughout the country.” Chicago has a rich history with the Beard Foundation, delivering restaurant and chef winners 23 out of 24 years. In 2009, the James Beard Foundation took its JBF Award nominee breakfast on the road for the first time ever to Chicago’s famed Rick Bayless-owned Frontera Grill. The 2014 JBF Award nominee breakfast was held at JBF Award Winner Paul Kahan’s The Publican in Chicago.

“The James Beard Foundation has enjoyed a special friendship with the city of Chicago for decades. It’s a city that boasts over 40 James Beard Award winners, as well as a special community of chefs and restaurateurs who have always supported the work of our Foundation,” said Ungaro. “We believe celebrating our 2015 Awards in Chicago is consistent with our mission to honor excellence all across America.”

The James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards, an exclusive event honoring the nation’s top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists, will remain in New York City in May of 2015.

Bringing the James Beard Foundation’s awards ceremony to Chicago is an extension of its continuing efforts to recognize the exciting array of food scenes in America. The Foundation’s other national programs include Taste America, Chef’s Boot Camp for Policy & Change, the Celebrity Chef Tour, and America Cooks with Chefs: The 800 Calorie Challenge. These programs further JBF’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.

During the JBF Awards event, which is open to the public, awards for the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories will be handed out, along with special achievement awards including Humanitarian of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, and America’s Classics. A gala reception will immediately follow, featuring top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.

For more information, visit jamesbeard.org.

Lyric Opera to Host First James Beard Awards to be Held Outside  NYC

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