Chicago is adding another jewel to its culinary crown. After 24 years in the Big Apple, the James Beard Foundation awards ceremony is moving to the Windy City next year.
It's more proof that Chicago has fast become home to one of the country's hottest restaurant scenes. The foundation — which is based in New York and honors the nation's best chefs, restaurants and food media — says several cities had asked to host the annual awards ceremony, but Chicago's offer of marketing and sponsorship support was too good to turn down.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the move "a milestone" and led a Champagne toast with some of the city's best-known chefs at the Pritzker Pavilion to celebrate the announcement.
"This is a recognition of what all of us have known locally, and now everyone will know worldwide," Rahm said. "Chicago is a culinary capital."
He praised the chefs for attracting visitors from "all over the world, to the city of Chicago to also enjoy what you all do with the canvas of a beautiful meal."
"Chicago has long been a top culinary destination, a city that could satisfy any food-lover's cravings," agreed James Beard President Susan Ungaro, who made the announcement with Emanuel.
The James Beard awards were first held in 1990, and have always been held in New York. The awards honor those who follow in the footsteps of Beard, considered the dean of American cooking when he died in 1985.
Chicago's chefs have brought home numerous Beard awards over the years, including best chefs for Rick Bayless (1995), Charlie Trotter (1999), Grant Achatz (2008) and Paul Kahan (shared with New York's David Chang in 2013). Bayless' Frontera Grill was named best restaurant in 2007 and Trotter's Charlie Trotter's earned the honor in 2000.
Bayless joined with Ungaro and the mayor for Tuesday's announcement, along with chefs Art Smith, Gale Gand and Graham Elliott among others.
Back in New York City, at City Hall, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Marti Adams, had this to say: "We're always sad to lose a staple from the city's culinary world--but even with the James Beard awards, Chicago still can't beat New York City's food scene."
The foundation's awards ceremony for chefs and restaurants will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 4, 2015. The separate ceremony for books and other media awards will remain in New York. The foundation has no plans to relocate its headquarters.
James Beard Foundation: http://www.jamesbeard.org/