Eater's continuous James Beard Award coverage from the Lyric Opera of Chicago starts now! The Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America and this is the first time it has been held in the Windy City. It's landmark anniversary for the James Beard Awards, which have officially been around for 25 years (longer than most restaurants), even though the actual ceremony has only been held for 24 of those years. Here's the list of this year's nominees, Eater's predictions of the winners, and for the data-inclined, here are the awards explained in charts! Check the livestream of the awards here.
UPDATE: The liveblog is now over. The full list of winners can be found here.
6:44 While we wait for the show to get started, here's a primer on how the James Beard Awards began. Fun fact: World saving chef Jamie Oliver was too cool to rehearse for the ceremony in 2002.
6:55 Chef Nancy Silverton could also be going to the Met Ball in this dress. (For some realtime Met Ball coverage, head over to our friends at Racked)
7:01 Chef Ari Taymor is rockin' some Chuck Taylors at food prom. The sockless look is bold. Also A+ beard. That brings the Beard at the Beards count to ONE.
7:06 It looks really claustrophobic in this aquarium.
7:06 The awards ceremony is literally getting started with Black Eyed Peas' hit "Let's Get it Started," and a photo montage!
7:11 "Cause i'm a hungry woman, feed me like I wanna be fed." Our new life theme song by Shemekia Copeland.
7:14 JBF President Susan Ungaro talks about the first JBFAs held in 1991. Wolfgang Puck won Outstanding Chef and yoga-loving superstar Rick Bayless won Best Chef Midwest.
7:15 An observation from Susan Ungaro:
7:18 Some corporate sponsors: Bacardi Grand Reserva, Aqua Panna, Breville, American Airlines, and Wisconsin Cheese. The gift bags must be great this year. Someone send us a blender and some booze. Cheese, too please.
7:20 Just a good selfie from chef Andrew Zimmern:
7:21 Did Susan Ungaro just compare host Alton Brown to Billy Crystal?!?!
7:21 Alton takes an Ellen-style selfie!
7:23 Alton drops some serious numbers. Over the past 25 years, 52,000 people have qualified for awards. There has also been nearly 6,000 minutes of speeches since the James Beard Awards started.
7:24 Alton Brown owns a taser. We repeat. Alton Brown owns a taser.
7:25 Alton Brown admits that Frontera Grill changed his life. Ricky Bayless has changed our lives too.
7:28 Second musical performance of the night, and we're just 20 minutes in. Alton Brown performs a meatified version of Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On." There's a serious number of finger snaps involved:
"The meat goes on. Vegetarians try to tempt me w kale pie." #jbfa— Julie Smolyansky (@JulieSmolyansky) May 4, 2015
I love Alton, but that song was painful. #jbfa— Jennifer Lee Kirk (@The_Jenius) May 4, 2015
7:35 Rick Bayless is bae.
7:36 Eater Reports Editor has her priorities straight.
I've been at the #jbfa for exactly 30 mins and have already eaten all the cheese.— erin deJesus (@asteriskerin) May 4, 2015
7:39 Great montage of moments from the awards over the years set to "Eye of the Tiger" and "Ice Ice Baby."
7:40 Lessons learned from this montage: A lot of chefs sleep with their Beard Awards. April Bloomfield cleans hers with olive oil, lemon, and salt.
7:41 Alton uses his medals at the spa. Cucumbers are for plebes.
7:42 WINNER: RISING STAR CHEF — Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA
7:46 WINNER: OUTSTANDING BAKER — Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, NYC (He should have won for that bow tie alone)
No knead to be humble, Jim Lahey, you just won a #jbfa for Best Baker!— Kat Kinsman (@kittenwithawhip) May 4, 2015
7:50 The first America's Classics winner is announced. It is Sally Bell's Kitchen in Richmond, Virginia where everyone loves the cupcakes.
7:53 Carla Hall is recapping the JBF Journalism Awards that took place last week.
7:55 The James Beard Awards is better at brand placement than a Lady Gaga music video.
7:56 Chef Daniel Boulud joins Carla Hall on stage. This height difference is very real.
8:00 WINNER: BEST CHEF MIDWEST — Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, MO (Aww, he thanked his wife!)
8:02 Somebody Ming Tsai a Lexus!
8:03 WINNER: BEST CHEF NORTHEAST — Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA
8:04 Sweet speech, sweet beard Barry Maiden. Beard at the Beard's Count is now at TWO.
8:06 WHO IS THE CHEF WHISPERER?
8:07 Rick Bayless is making jokes about his airport restaurant, but it's low key the best thing in the world.
8:09 Maybe the James Beard Awards should leave strange parody shorts to the professionals. But this Rahm Emanuel cameo is pretty good.
8:09: A VERY BRONZE RAHM EMANUEL IRL
Emanuel offered a sweet thank you to revolutionary to chef to the recently deceased Chicago-chef Charlie Trotter for helping to put the city on the map.
8:11 "I'll see you one mayor and raise you a governor." — Alton Brown getting feisty as he introduces Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.
8:14 An educational tribute to this year's Lifetime Achievement Winner, Chicago restaurateur Richard Melman. It involves some seriously great disco music and this stellar throwback photo:
8:21 Richard Melman plans to get drunk tonight and wake up at 6 a.m. tomorrow. Impressive!
8:23 Some great life advice from Melman: "Don't waste the energy to cover up your failures, just learn from them and move on."
Someone give this man a self help book deal!
8:25 Two thumbs up for the James Beard Awards
8:26 Richard Melman is still talking, but it's to thank his wife and team. #relationshipgoals
8:31 WINNER: OUTSTANDING BAR PROGRAM — The Violet Hour, Chicago
RYAN SUTTON on The Violet Hour:
So I could tell you that when I asked a wait captain at Alinea where I should drink in Chicago, she only gave one recommendation: The Violet Hour (this was before The Aviary was open). And I could tell you that The Violet Hour is where I first tried the lovely potable known as the boulevardier, the bourbon-esque answer to a negroni. But perhaps the story I like most of all is from my January visit to the Violet Hour. I can't remember precisely what we drank that night, but I do remember exactly what my companion and I did shortly afterward, which is fall asleep with impressive speed. Congratulations, Violet Hour. Your drinks work. And you are one of my favorite bars on planet earth.
8:34 Updates from the Eater crew at the JBFA's: The theater is cold, the press room is hot, and people just went crazy for the first Chicago winner.
8:35 WINNER: OUTSTANDING WINE PROGRAM — A16, San Francisco
8:36: Oh, he's Steve the bartender on "Sex and the City"
8:39: WINNER: OUTSTANDING WINE, BEER, OR SPIRITS PROFESSIONAL — Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco
8:42 Announcing the Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America. First up, bacon-master Allan Benton.
8:43: Next up, the "King of Cocktails" Dale DeGroff.
8:45 RICKY BAE returns to the stage!
8:46 WINNER: BEST CHEF SOUTHWEST — Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin
A dapper barbecue man.
8:48 WINNER: BEST CHEF WEST — Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Fun fact: Krasinski was a vegetarian when she first met Brioza.
8:51 UPDATE: Here's how Richard Melman plans to get drunk. "We're having ramen and a cold beer [ideally Asahi]. And a champagne chaser, [and] sake bombs."
8:52 Next America's Classic winner: The Lopez Family's Guelaguetza in Los Angeles, Calif. It has Rick Bayless' mouth watering.
8:55 Grant Achatz returns to the stage with tousled hair . No bowtie for him.
8:57 WINNER: BEST CHEF GREAT LAKES — Jonathon Sawyer, Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland "Thank you for not booing me." (There were boos in the press room.)
Sawyer is rocking another great beard. That brings the Beard at the Beards count to THREE.
9:01 WINNER: BEST CHEF NORTHWEST — Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, WA
9:03 "It's the Faviken of America." — Eater LA Editor Matthew Kang on The Willows Inn on Lummi Island.
9:05 A moment of silence for chef Homaro Cantu, who recently committed suicide.
9:07 UPDATE from the press room: Ming Tsai is pounding drinks.
9:09 Sam Kass dropping some knowledge about the James Beard Foundation's programs.
9:11 Shemekia Copeland is back! This time she's singing a soulful rendition of the Blues Brothers "Sweet Home Chicago."
9:14 WINNER: BEST CHEF SOUTH — Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans. Fun fact: The man loves olive oil. He also has a decent beard. Beards at the Beards Count is up to FIVE.
9:17 UPDATES from the press room: People are getting bored of the show and filing out into the lobby (That's where the booze is).
9:19 WINNER: BEST CHEF SOUTHEAST — Jason Stanhope, FIG, Charleston, SC
9:20 UPDATE from the press room: Chef Jonathan Sawyer tried to call his restaurant and was put on hold. Doesn't the James Beard award get him some special treatment?
9:22 More Who's Who in Food and Beverage in America: This time chef Wylie Dufresne, and cookbook author Marciel E. Presilla, and Nathalie Dupree.
9:23 Alton is jealous.
9:29 Another America's Classics winner: Archie's Waeside in Le Mars, Iowa where people go to eat a ton of meat.
9:30 Hi Curtis Stone. A+ pocket square.
9:33 WINNER: BEST CHEF MID-ATLANTIC — Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore (He also may have the best bowtie of the night.)
9:36 WINNER: BEST CHEF New York City — Mark Ladner, Del Posto (He makes this insane 100 layer lasagna.)
A+ shoutout to his mom for introducing him to canned chickpeas, his first "love in life."
9:39 Another America's Classics winner: Sevilla in NYC where they make so much paella.
9:41 UPDATE from the press room: Curtis Stone spilled a drink all over his dapper suit. =(
9:46 WINNER: OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT DESIGN 75 Seats and Under — Bureau of Architecture and Design, James Gorski and Tom Nahabedian, Brindille, Chicago
9:49 WINNER: OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT DESIGN 75 Seats and Over — SOMA, Michel Abboud, Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Palm Springs, CA
9:52 Alton Brown admits that he never planned to host the James Beard Awards again because of chef José Andrés.
9:54 Andrés is in the house talking about Humanitarian of the Year Michel Nischan.
10:03 Michel Nischan's pink and gray lapel is on point. So is his beard! Beards at the Beards count is now at SIX.
10:08 John T. Edge is layin' down the LAW and you best listen up. Why do people have to be so #rude?
Hey VIPs in the balcony act right and listen up.— John T Edge (@johntedge) May 5, 2015
10:09 FEWER BRANDS. MORE AWARDS.
10:10 WINNER: BEST NEW RESTAURANT — Bâtard, NYC
RYAN SUTTON on Bâtard:
The Austrian-themed Batard is one of New York's most critically acclaimed new restaurants. It serves one of the best schnitzels in the known universe. It is a place where grownups can go to escape the world of small plates and enjoy affordably-priced set menus. I awarded a strong two stars in my Eater review. But I have to wonder if this is the best choice for best new restaurant, as Batard is a very safe, very neo-classical restaurant. I would've liked to have seen the Beards honor the American-Korean flavors of Chicago's Parachute, or the unparalleled and aromatic corn dishes of Enrique Olvera's Cosme. I would've liked to have seen the Beards tip their hat to either of those two restaurants with a proper award, given their focus on culinary risk taking and pushing diners outside of their comfort zones. Or I would've liked to have seen the Beards honor Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, where we have a great chef like Gavin Kaysen bringing his haute chops to a city without as deep of a fine dining history as New York. Batard is a fine, fine restaurant; New York is lucky to have it. But I'm not sure it's moving the culinary conversation forward as much as some of the other nominees.
10:13 Another America's Classics winner: Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, Kentucky where they drink a lot of bourbon.
10:16 Yes, the awards are still going.
10:17 American Airlines has been mentioned four times. #brands #sponsors #makethatmoney
10:18 WINNER: OUTSTANDING PASTRY CHEF — Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milkbar, NYC
"Dave Chang, thank you forever."
10:20 Aww chef bros Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud just bro-ing out on stage together.
10:22 Daniel Boulud gave a huge shoutout to his protégé Gavin Kaysen and no one else. Awkward.
10:25 WINNER: OUTSTANDING SERVICE —The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
10:27 THAT WOULD BE US.
That one person on your TL talking about #JBFA and not Met Gala.— Van V (@yourbffness) May 5, 2015
10:30 Lidia Bastianich for president!
10:31 WINNER: OUTSTANDING RESTAURATEUR — Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group, Chicago
He says he loves bowties but isn't wearing one.
10:37 WINNER: OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT — Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Chef Dan Barber flew his whole staff out! Adorable.
RYAN SUTTON on Stone Barns:
My father doesn't typically like tasting menus. He likes normal food, unfussy food, preferably served on a single plate, for not a lot of money. And yet few things get him more excited than going to Stone Barns every year for a four-hour, 20-30 course menu. He loves the lectures that precede each course. That's the power of cuisine, changing someone's perceptions about how to eat, and what to eat. I love Stone Barns too, and I can't wait to go back.
10:38 Chicago cleaned up this year.
Chicago chefs/restaurants end the night with 4 medals at the James Beard Award. (The city isn't nominated in the final two categories)— Kevin Pang (@pang) May 5, 2015
10:43 LAST AWARD OF THE NIGHT. YOU DID IT. GO YOU.
10:43 WINNER: OUTSTANDING CHEF — Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, NYC
10:48 That's a wrap folks. Alton is hitting the buffet.
10:49 So is everyone else.