27 local restaurants, chefs announced as James Beard Award semi-finalists

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Chicago strengthened its claim as the food capital of America this week when 27 local restaurants and chefs were announced as James Beard Award semi-finalists. That's the biggest award there is in the food industry.

"I might actually do a back flip or pull a hamstring or hurt myself badly, but it would be a big party," said owner and chef of The Blanchard Jason Paskewitz.

His 7-month-old French restaurant in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood specializing in French classics is one of two Chicago spots up for “Best New Restaurant.”

“It's unbelievable and no matter what chefs tell you it's not a big deal, it's the biggest deal there is,” he said.

Out of 20,000 entries, there are 27 Chicago semi-finalists from best chef to outstanding baker.

“Chicago has become the center of culinary excellence around the country, around the world,” said Chris Koetke, who's a chef and the Vice President of the Culinary school at Kendall College.

He said their students get the chance to learn on campus and off.

“They also do internships here in Chicago and what we call stage, that's where they go and work a couple days to experience it," said Koetke.

Culinary students say it's the diversity that makes Chicago such a great place to go to school. 

“The food scene here is amazing you can get great food from any kind of culture or cuisine you are looking for,” said Alex Gabrielson.

Kendall student Jesus Kattan is from Honduras, but plans to stay in Chicago after he graduates and hopes to have his own award someday.

“Become recognized by James Beard, that would be awesome actually," said Kattan.

A handful of this year’s James Beard nominees went to school at Kendall College.

The James Beard finalists will be announced on March 15th. The awards will be handed out in Chicago on May 2.

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