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August 21, 2017

Illinois' 2017 James Beard Award Nominees

in Eat & Drink, Chicago
May 01, 2017

Illinois' 2017 James Beard Award Nominees

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Illinois extends a hearty congratulations to all 10 of our nominees for the 2017 James Beard Awards, slated for May 1 right here in Chicago. Find more great chefs and restaurants in Chicago and beyond at Taste Illinois[/taste-illinois/].

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Illinois extends a hearty congratulations to all 10 of our nominees for the 2017 James Beard Awards, slated for May 1 right here in Chicago. Find more great chefs and restaurants in Chicago and beyond at Taste Illinois.

Outstanding Baker

Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread

The maestro behind Publican Quality Bread, Greg Wade has turned the process of making bread into an artisanal craft. Whether baking his naturally fermented, whole-grain bread for wholesale customers or developing recipes to fit the menus of local restaurants—including sister eatery (and James Beard Award winner) The Publican—Wade is committed to supporting local farmers in Illinois, sourcing most of his grains from Spence Farm in Fairbury.

Outstanding Restaurant


Rick and Deanna Bayless are no strangers to the James Beard Awards. Their first restaurant, Frontera Grill, won the award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2007. Established in 1989, only a couple years after Frontera opened its doors, Topolobampo also puts a gourmet spin on Mexican cuisine. However, whereas Frontera is more of a casual eatery, Topolo is the classier, dressed-up sister restaurant. The intimacy of that experience inspires Chef de Cuisine Andres Padilla to categorize his menu by emotions, including Wonder, Nostalgia, and Triumph.

Outstanding Restaurateur

Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz

Nominees in this category must uphold the highest standards in restaurant operations. If that’s the case, then Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of could be nominated tenfold. As founders of the Boka Restaurant Group, Boehm and Katz are responsible for some of Chicago’s greatest culinary institutions, including Girl & the Goat, Balena, and GT Fish & Oyster.

Rising Star Chef of the Year

Jenner Tomaska of Next

A native of Chicagoland, Jenner Tomaska quickly rose through the kitchens of his hometown upon his return from culinary school in Rhode Island. As Chef de Cuisine at Next, Tomaska taps into his youthful energy to curate the restaurant’s signature ever-changing menus. For all the times the menu has turned over, though, one thing hasn't changed: this is Tomaska’s second consecutive nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

Best Chef in America: Great Lakes

For the Best Chef in America award, the committee separates the country into 10 separate regions. All five of the 2017 nominees for the Great Lakes region are located right here in Chicago, solidifying Illinois’ great city as the Midwest’s culinary capital.

Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice

As the mastermind behind Fat Rice, Abraham Conlon whips up comfort food that combines Portuguese, Chinese, and Macanese influences.

Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde

A native of Texas, Sarah Grueneberg cut her teeth in Houston kitchens such as Brennan's, where she became the iconic restaurant's youngest female sous chef. Since becoming a proud Illinoisian, however, she’s become a star of Chicago’s international food scene, applying the influences she gleaned from her world travels to Monteverde's Italian-focused menu.

Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark of Parachute

The husband-and-wife duo of Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark run their Avondale eatery like a family-run restaurant. With only 40 seats and a small, attentive staff, Parachute reflects the personal spirit of Kim and Clark, making their Korean American cuisine feel more like a homemade meal.

Lee Wolen of Boka

Since joining Boka in 2014, Lee Wolen and his restaurant have received numerous distinctions, including multiple Chef of the Year awards, a Michelin Star, and a 2016 James Beard Award nomination for Best Chef. As Boka's Executive Chef, Wolen is largely responsible for pairing his seasonal American cuisine with the Lincoln Park restaurant's timeless atmosphere.

Erlin Wu-Bower of Nico Osteria

A nominee for Best Chef for three years running, Erlin Wu-Bower brings the traditions of coastal Italy to Chicago's Gold Coast. It's hard to say what inspires his seafood-heavy menu more: his past working in some of Chicago's most illustrious kitchens, including The Publican and avec, or the influence of his parents—one an accomplished food writer, the other a seafood-loving Cajun.

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