The James Beard Foundation released its 2023 shortlist of semifinalists, known to many as the “long list,” Wednesday morning, announcing 12 Chicago restaurants, bars, chefs and beverage professionals in the running for nominations. That number is three fewer than the 15 semifinalists named in 2022 when the awards gala met in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Despite the moderate number of overall semifinalists, Chicago came out on top in several categories. Khmai Fine Dining, a traditional Cambodian restaurant by chef Mona Sang and her mother Sarom Sieng, both survivors of the nation’s genocide, and the contemporary French bistro Obelix by brothers Nicolas and Oliver Poilevey, earned nominations in the always-competitive Best Restaurant category. New. Khmai Fine Dining was named one of Eater’s Top 15 New Restaurants in America for 2022.
There are more notable newcomers from the city and region this year, including all-day restaurant and natural wine shop All Together Now for the outstanding category of the wine and other beverages program and Scratch Brewing Company, a farmhouse microbrewery. located more than five hours southwest of Chicago in Ava, Illinois. Fine dining heavyweights Smyth and Sepia were selected for their excellent restaurant and excellent hospitality, respectively.
Damarr Brown, chef de cuisine at the lauded southern restaurant Virtue in Hyde Park, earned an Emerging Chef (formerly Rising Star Chef) nomination. Brown became a familiar face to US television audiences last year with an impressive performance on Top Chef season 19 and was dubbed a “fan favourite.” If Brown is named the winner, he will carry on a legacy at Virtue: Chef-owner Erick Williams became the first black chef to win the coveted Great Lakes Best Chef Award in 2022.
Speaking of best chef, Great Lakes, Chicago again ranks high in the category with five contenders: Diana Dávila of modern Mexican restaurant Mi Tocaya Antojería, Thai Dang of Vietnamese hit HaiSous, Paul Fehribach of southern hotspot Big Jones, Tim Flores and Genie Kwon of Philippine giant Kasama, and Zubair Mohajir of contemporary South Asian restaurant Wazwan. Both Dávila and Fehribach were semifinalists for the same award last year.
Though Chicago has long enjoyed a more high-profile culinary reputation than other Midwestern regions, chefs and restaurateurs from neighboring Wisconsin have made their mark on the long 2023 list. Notable entries include Milwaukee’s Lupi & Iris, Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant from chef Adam Siegel, who began his culinary career at the now-closed Chicago icon Spiaggia and won Best Chef: Midwest in 2008.
The awards ceremony for some of the highest honors in the world of food will return on June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The finalists will be revealed on Wednesday, March 29.
Head over to Eater to see the long list from across the country. This year’s Chicago semifinalist nominations are below.
(* denotes a repeat candidate from previous years)
Damarr Brown, Virtue
best new restaurant
Cambodian Khmai Gourmet Food
Exceptional wine and other drinks program
all together now
Scratch Brewing Company
Best Chef: Great Lakes
*Diana Dávila Boldin, My namesake Antojería
Thai Dang, HaiSous
*Paul Fehribach, Big Jones
Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, Kasama
Zubair Mohajir, Wazwan
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.