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posted: 5/6/2014 12:11 PM

Chicago chefs honored with Beard awards

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  • Dave Beran of Next in Chicago was named the James Beard Foundation top regional chef for the Great Lakes region.

      Dave Beran of Next in Chicago was named the James Beard Foundation top regional chef for the Great Lakes region.
    COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN SEEL/NEXT RESTAURANT

  • Restaurateur Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut, was named top pastry chef by the James Beard Foundation Monday.

      Restaurateur Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut, was named top pastry chef by the James Beard Foundation Monday.
    Associated Press

 
By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press

The dining scene in Chicago got a little more star-studded Monday when the James Beard Foundation named Dave Beran of Next in the city its top regional chef for the Great Lakes region. Also, the Rising star Chef of the Year went to Jimmy Bannos Jr. of The Purple Pig in Chicago.

So, keep those names in mind when making Chicago dining reservations in the near future.

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Speaking of popularity: If you thought the lines to get a Cronut were bad before, just wait.

Last year, New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel needed crowd control and rationing to handle the frenzy over his trademarked doughnut-croissant hybrid that became a viral success and spawned numerous knockoffs. But just as the furor was fading, the James Beard Foundation has put him back at the center of the culinary map, on Monday naming him the nation's top pastry chef.

Ansel gained fame last summer when his innovative sweet treat had New Yorkers lining up at dawn outside his Dominique Ansel Bakery to nab one of the 200 or so he made per day. There even was a Cronut black market, with some selling for as much as $40 online.

The Beard Foundation also gave a nod to the savory side of the baking aisle, naming Los Angeles bread and pizza guru Nancy Silverton the nation's most outstanding chef. She's only the fourth woman to get the honor since it began in 1991. The others include Alice Waters (1992), Lidia Bastianich (2002) and Judy Rodgers (2004).

Silverton -- whose early career included a stint as head pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck's Spago -- was at the fore of the artisanal bread movement. When she opened her restaurant, Campanile, she was frustrated when she couldn't find a baker making the rustic sourdough breads she'd had during her training in Europe. So she taught herself to bake it.

In 1989, she opened La Brea Bakery next door to Campanile, and it quickly was regarded as one of the nation's top bakeries. Two years later, the Beard Foundation named her the nation's top pastry chef. Today, her restaurants include Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, which she owns with Mario Batali.

The James Beard awards honor those who follow in the footsteps of Beard, considered the dean of American cooking when he died in 1985. Monday's ceremony honored chefs and restaurants; a similar event on Friday was held for book and other media awards. Last year's top chef honor was shared by David Chang and Paul Kahan.

The foundation's outstanding restaurateur award went to Boston chef Barbara Lynch, marking only the second time the honor has gone to a woman. Lynch oversees half a dozen restaurants, including her first -- No. 9 Park and her most recent, Menton -- and is credited with fostering the city's burgeoning food scene.

San Francisco's The Slanted Door, where classic Vietnamese food gets a modern rethinking by owner and chef Charles Phan, was named the nation's most outstanding restaurant.

Donald Link's Peche Seafood Grill in New Orleans -- known for its rustic coastal seafood cooked in an open hearth -- garnered two awards Monday: best new restaurant overall, as well as a tie for best regional chef in the South for chef/partner Ryan Prewitt. He tied with Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's, also in New Orleans.

The group's Lifetime Achievement award went to Sirio Maccioni, the restaurateur behind New York City's famed Le Cirque. Maccioni opened Le Cirque -- French for "the circus" -- in 1974 and it soon became a landmark on the city's restaurant scene, helping to launch the careers of numerous chefs, including Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Jacques Torres, Bill Telepan and Geoffrey Zakarian.

The Humanitarian of the Year honor went to Matt Haley, a restaurateur with seven restaurants in Delaware who works with multiple nonprofit groups, including Celebrity Chef's Beach Brunch for Meals on Wheels.

"I'm a member of the most compassionate, caring industry in the world," he said. "I'm forever grateful for that. I will spend the rest of my life leveraging my business for good."

The Beard Foundation also named its top regional chefs around the country: Vikram Sunderam of Rasika in Washington, D.C. (Mid-Atlantic); Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee (Midwest); April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig in New York City (New York City); Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston (Northeast); Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland, Ore. (Northwest); Ryan Prewitt of Peche Seafood Grill in New Orleans and Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's in New Orleans (South); Ashley Christensen of Poole's Downtown Diner in Raleigh, N.C. (Southeast); Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston (Southwest); and Daniel Patterson of Coi in San Francisco (West).

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