CHICAGO — The Oscars of the food world —the James Beard Foundation (J.B.F.) Restaurant and Chef Awards — took place May 4 in Chicago. This was the 25th anniversary of the awards and the first time the celebration was held outside New York City. The lavish gala at the Civic Opera House ended a weather-perfect weekend for culinary leaders who dined their way through the Windy City.

During a ceremony hosted by Alton Brown, a James Beard Award-winning television host, author and chef, national and regional chef and restaurant awards were presented, as well as a number of special achievement awards. Winners of the Foundation’s annual Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards were presented on April 24 at a ceremony in New York City.

Alton Brown - a James Beard Award-winning television host, author and chef - hosted the ceremony.

A complete list of award winners from both events may be found by clicking here.

Highlights of the May 4 awards ceremony include:

• Outstanding Chef: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, New York City

• Outstanding Restaurant: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

• Outstanding Pastry Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku, New York City

• Outstanding Restaurateur: Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican and others), Chicago

• Best New Restaurant: Bâtard, New York City

• Rising Star Chef: Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif.

Prior to the Chicago event, Food Business News spoke with Chef Chris Koetke, vice-president of culinary arts, Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, Chicago, on the city hosting the 25th J.B.F. awards, as well as the most significant trends in the food world.

Chef Chris Koetke, vice-president of culinary arts, Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, Chicago.

Mr. Koetke joined Kendall College in 1998, serving first as a culinary instructor and later as associate dean, dean and executive director. Under his leadership, Kendall was awarded the Academy of the Culinary Arts Cordon d’ Or – Gold Ribbon Cooking School of the Year Culinary Academy Award for 2008. Also that year, the culinary arts program was named “exemplary culinary program” by the American Culinary Federation.

In 2009, the school was named the official educational partner of the National Restaurant Association Conserve Environmental Initiative. Kendall was the first culinary school in the United States to receive Certified Green Restaurant status from the Green Restaurant Association for both the dining room and cafeteria.

FBN: What are you expecting from this year’s James Beard Awards winners?

Mr. Koetke: This is so exciting for us in Chicago. Chefs from all over the country are coming here and descending on our city, learning about our food, our food culture here in Chicago. For Kendall, we are so proud to share these awards and to be part of that process. Our students are learning about it and meeting some of the chefs. It is huge.

FBN: Why is the time right for the spotlight to be on Chicago?

Mr. Koetke: Over the last 20 years this city has been developing its restaurant scene to have some of the very best restaurants in the world, as well as all the great food that happens in the neighborhoods. It is the perfect time to be here in Chicago and recognize that.

For us at Kendall, we have been changing. What has been happening here has been spectacular. In the last 10 years we moved into a new facility. We have introduced a huge international component into our campus. We have between 50 and 60 different nationalities in our student body. That’s critical, because as a chef of the future you cannot be in your own little corner of the world. You have to experience the world. That’s how we are all connected now. Our students get to see the culture and cuisine of other places. Plus, Kendall is now involved in affiliate campuses all over the world … 21 campuses in seven countries. We are international, not just Chicago.

FBN: What should we expect at this year’s Awards and how does this impact Kendall College’s teachings?

Mr. Koetke: We will see internationality and regionality, because the James Beard Awards is about niching out what is going on across the country. For us, it is very interesting, because we are watching trends. Here at the school we are all about what the future looks like. We need to think about the future for our students. We spend time looking at what will the future look like in five years for them. We are watching some big trends, and we are seeing them reinforced by the nominees this year and what they are doing in their restaurants.

FBN: Three trends Mr. Koetke identified include:

1.         The old is now new. For example, he said, the sherbet and ginger-ale punch is back.

2.         Sides are now the main course. He said chefs are dressing up vegetables as entrees and charcuterie is now for dinner.

3.         Ramen is so much more. The instant noodle dorm-room staple goes with everything imaginable.

How are millennials impacting the culinary scene?

Mr. Koetke: The culinary world is always changing. Every group changes it. Every immigrant group changes it. It is in a constant state of flux. What’s interesting about millennials is they have a certain can-do attitude that is pretty fascinating. They want success and they want it fast. They want to do unusual things. They are going to change the world.

FBN:  What role does health and wellness play in recipe development in the culinary world?

Mr. Koetke: It’s huge and growing. Our students have to understand nutrition. They have a number of courses in it. The reality is chefs are trend setters. Chefs have to know about nutrition. If you understand about nutrition, there are many more opportunities for employment.

The J.B.F. awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields.

About the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards

Established in 1990, the J.B.F. awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and further the foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire. A cookbook author and teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge about food, James Beard, who died in 1985, was a champion of American cuisine. He helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts, instilling in them the value of wholesome, healthful and delicious food. All J.B.F. winners receive a certificate and medallion. There are no cash prizes.