image002 (1)Nominations for the 2013 Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence were announced on Tuesday, Nov. 19 by Michael Muser, General Manager and Partner of Grace, Carrie Nahabedian, Executive Chef of NAHA and Catherine de Orio, Host of Check, Please! during a press conference at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park. The Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence is the only Chicago-based awards presentation that recognizes and rewards culinary originality and talent in the Chicagoland area. Forty-four exceptional chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, and restaurants were nominated. The Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence will be on Friday, Jan. 31 at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Grand Chefs Gala presented by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

The 2013 Jean Banchet nominees are as follows:

Chef of the Year: Curtis Duffy (Grace), Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA), Paul Virant (Vie/Perennial Virant), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia)

Pastry Chef of the Year: Lisa Bonjour (mk), Craig Harzewski (NAHA), Elissa Narow (Vie/Perennial Virant), Leigh Omilinsky (Cafe des Architectes)

Best Chef-de-Cuisine:  Ali Ratcliffe-Bauer (Brindille), Andres Padilla (Topolobampo), Sean Pharr (NoMI Kitchen), Nicholas Romero (Grace)

Rising Chef of the Year: Thai Dang (Embeya), Nicole Pederson (Found), Tom Van Lente (TWO), Lee Wolen (formerly of Lobby Restaurant at the Peninsula Chicago)

Rising Pastry Chef of the Year: Dana Cree (Blackbird), Sarah Mispagel (Nightwood), Thomas Raquel (Acadia), Bobby Schaffer (Grace)

Best Sommelier:  Valerie Cao (Grace), Chad Ellegood (NoMI Kitchen), Richard Hanauer (The Langham), Arthur Hon (Sepia)

Best Mixologist: Charles Joly (The Aviary), Paul McGee (Three Dots and a Dash), Danielle Pizzutillo (Embeya), Sergio Serna (The Drawing Room)

Best Restaurant Design: Balena, Boarding House, Brindille, Embeya

Best Restaurant Service: Balena, Grace, Nightwood, Sixteen

Best New Restaurant: Fat Rice, Found, Gather, Travelle, TWO

Restaurant of the Year: Acadia, Brindille, Embeya, Grace

In an exciting, Oscars-style presentation, the 17th Annual Grand Chefs Gala on Friday, Jan. 31 will recognize the city’s elite with the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. Since 2001, this prestigious honor is the only award that recognizes culinary originality and talent specifically within the Chicagoland area, a global destination for cuisine.  Chicago’s finest chefs, including Curtis Duffy, Giuseppe Tentori, and Jimmy Bannos will, once again, gather to personally prepare and present their signature dishes for our 750 guests. The gala will feature high-energy live music, dancing, and premium items.

In 2013, the Gala raised over $500,000.  This year the Foundation is aiming even higher. A limited number of tickets and tables are still available and can be purchased by visiting the website at or calling the Foundation at 312.236.4491.  Tickets start at $100 for the Nightcap portion of the event and $500 for the entire evening.

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease affecting 30,000 children and adults in the United States.  The respiratory system and the digestive tract are both compromised by CF, making involuntary activities like breathing and eating extraordinarily difficult for these patients on a daily basis.  In 1955, children with CF usually did not live long enough to attend elementary school.  Today, because of Foundation-supported research and care, patients are living to a median age of 37.

For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, please visit the Foundation’s website at or call (312) 236-4491.