By Kevin Pang
8:50 PM CDT, May 6, 2013
Paul Kahan, the Chicago chef overseeing the restaurant empire that includes Blackbird, Avec, and The Publican, shared in the top prize at the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards in New York Monday, winning in the outstanding chef category.
Kahan shared the national award with another chef also operating a large dining portfolio: David Chang of New York’s Momofuku Restaurant Group. For the Beards, regarded as the Oscars of the American culinary scene, it was the third tie for outstanding chef since the awards began 26 years ago.
"Did I expect to win? Never," said Kahan shortly after he accepted the medal. "It was super surreal (when they announced the tie). They said it was Chicago and New York, and I still wasn't sure if I won."
This was Kahan’s fifth nomination in the category. His win caps a noteworthy year for his One Off Hospitality restaurants — they opened Publican Quality Meats in 2012, a butcher shop that centralized the group’s meats and bread baking operations. This fall will see their newest, yet-to-be-named restaurant open in the old Sutton Place Hotel on Rush Street.
"It's not about me. It's about every person who's worked for me, past, present and future," Kahan said. "It's an award for all the hard work of over 500 employees. What we do, we do as a team."
The last Chicagoan to win as outstanding chef was Alinea’s Grant Achatz, a winner in 2008.
Girl & The Goat’s Stephanie Izard took the prize for Best Chef: Great Lakes, a regional award regarded as a stepping stone for future national consideration. Four of the five nominees this year were Chicagoans. A third local establishment was a winner Monday: The Aviary, the Next-adjacent cocktail lounge from Achatz and Nick Kokonas, took home the award for outstanding bar program.
The ceremony was held at Lincoln Center in New York City. On Friday, the broadcast and journalism awards were held, and two Chicago outlets took home medals: Mike Sula of the Chicago Reader won the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award for “Chicken of the Trees,” his story on preparing and eating the urban squirrel. WBEZ-FM’s Nina Barrett and Lynette Kalsnes won in the Audio Webcast or Radio Show category for their series “Fear of Frying.”
A complete list of winners can be found here. (link to PDF)
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