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James Beard Awards Ceremony Moving To Chicago

(File photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Rums of P.R.)

(File photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Rums of P.R.)

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CHICAGO (CBS/AP) – Strengthening its status as a “culinary capital of the world,” Chicago has been chosen to play host to the prestigious James Beard Foundation awards ceremony, known as the Oscars of the restaurant world.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the Lyric Opera of Chicago will host the James Beard Awards next May, the first time the gala culinary gathering has been held outside New York.

The James Beard Foundation, which is based in New York and has held its annual awards ceremony there for 24 years, said Chicago beat out several other cities thanks to a combination of marketing and sponsorship support considered too good to pass up.

WBBM 780’s Craig Dellimore

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel led a champagne toast after the foundation’s president, Susan Ungaro, announced Chicago would host the awards starting next year.

“Chicago has long been a top culinary destination; a city that could satisfy any food-lover’s cravings, and you all know that,” Ungaro said.

Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia couldn’t be happier about the move.

“Events like Chicago Gourmet and now the James Beard Foundation Awards allows us to truly celebrate this city as a gastronomic hub, and culinary capital of the world,” he said.

Stephanie Izard, chef and owner of The Girl and the Goat, said the vibrancy of Chicago’s restaurant community makes it a good choice.

“For a long time, people thought of Chicago as a meat-and-potatoes town,” she said. “Then all of these amazing chefs started emerging, and now the chef community keeps growing as younger chefs that worked for some of the older chefs are emerging as chefs as well.”

Chef Homaro Cantu – a protégé of world renowned Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, and owner of critically-acclaimed restaurant and food lab moto in the West Loop – might be among those best known for cooking innovation, but he said that’s not what put Chicago on the culinary map.

“I think it’s just about good food. You know, it has to taste good,” he said. “I think that’s what really set Chicago apart from a lot of places.”

The James Beard Award honor those who follow in his footsteps. Beard was 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 Trotter in 1999, Rick Bayless in 1995, Grant Achatz in 2008, and Paul Kahan, who shared the award with David Chang of New York in 2013. Bayless’ Frontera Grill was named best restaurant in 2007 and Trotter’s Charlie Trotter’s earned the honor in 2000.

The ceremony for books and other media awards will remain in New York. The foundation has no plans to relocate its headquarters.

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