Local Culinary Stars Shine at the James Beard Foundation Awards

Culinary stars walked the red carpet and prepped the haute cuisine dishes on May 1 at the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. During a ceremony hosted by Emmy Award-nominated actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, awards in the Restaurant, Chef, and Restaurant Design categories were presented.
Legendary chef/restaurateur, Nora Pouillon, was presented with the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. It is presented to an individual whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook, or think about food in America.  Not only does she own and operate the first certified organic restaurant in the country, Restaurant Nora, in Dupont Circle, she also helped establish the FreshFarm Markets  — 14 of which now thrive in the DC metro area. She has also helped mold the missions of several environmental organizations, where she serves on the boards: Environmental Film Festival, Amazon Conservation Team, The Ocean Foundation, Earth Day Network, as well as FreshFarm Markets.
Local winners included Mark Furstenberg, who launched the evening with the first award, winning for Outstanding Baker. His bakery, Bread Furst, is located in the Van Ness/Forest Hills section of Washington, DC.
Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional went to Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Del.
Philadelphia’s Stephen Starr of Starr Restaurants, who also owns and operates Le Diplomat on 14th Street in DC, won Outstanding Restaurateur.
In the Best Mid-Atlantic Chef category, local nominees included Amy Brandwein of Centrolina, Tom Cunanan of Bad Saint, and Cindy Wolf of Baltimore’s Charleston, Petit Louis Bistro, Bar Vasquez, Cinghiale, and Johnny’s.
Industry leaders from across the country attended the “Oscars” of the restaurant industry, where the theme of the evening was “Powered by Food,” which celebrated how technology has strengthened our connections through food. The gala reception chefs, consisting of former James Beard Foundation Award recipients and nominees, shared their cuisine with nearly 2,000 attendees.
This is the third year the awards have been held in Chicago. JBF president Susan Ungaro announced that Chicago will continue to host the awards for the next five years. Presenting sponsors of the 2017 awards gala included: Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association, in association with the Chicago Department of Aviation, HMSHost, the Illinois Office of Tourism, and Mariano’s. Premier sponsors included: All-Clad Metalcrafters, American Airlines, Lavazza, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, and True Refrigeration®.
Supporting sponsors included: Breville®, Hyatt, Robert Mondavi Winery, Skuna Bay Salmon, and Valrhona. Gala Reception sponsors included: Ecolab, Front of the House®, Kendall College, and Windstar Cruises. Additional support came from: Chefwear, Creminelli Fine Meats, Emmi Roth, and VerTerra Dinnerware.

About the Author

Linda Roth is president of Linda Roth Associates, Inc. specializing in marketing, promotions and publicity in the hospitality industry. Contact Linda at 202-888-3571 or or visit her website at

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