James Beard Awards Reception Brings Out Culinary Elite

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James Beard Foundation Awards and the culinary community was out in full force the weekend leading up to the Monday, May 4, ceremony extravaganza.  One of the most anticipated pre-award parties was Sepia’s reception hosted by owner Emmanuel Nony and JBF four-time award nominee, Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman.  Past award winners and nominees, along with other notables in the culinary, civic and social community began arriving at 3:30 pm, milling outside in the sun-warmed afternoon or heading into the Michelin-starred Sepia restaurant and its adjacent private dining venue.

Chefs, restaurateurs and other culinary professionals, who had traveled from both coasts and around the Midwest, mingled during the reception sampling the plentiful food offerings which included English pea agnolotti, mini Ruebens, coffee cured duck breast, chicken-fried sweetbreads, pâtés, and pickled crudités.  Ayala and Ruinart champagnes flowed, and two of the specialty cocktails served were the Sepia Old Fashioned and the Birds & the Bees – a concoction of Kappa Pisco, Thelema Mountain red, pineapple gomme, and lime at the James Beard Awards.

Guests circulated between the restaurant and private dining space, where a fun photo booth by Fotio gave attendees the opportunity to create playful looks and mug for the camera. High energy house music gave the space a cool vibe.

Around 5:30 pm luxury motor coaches began arriving to whisk guests to the award ceremony at the historic Civic Opera House.  Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the coveted awards are often called “the Oscars of Food,” which recognizes excellence in chefs, restaurants, wine professionals, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers, and other culinary professionals.

Seen at the reception: Chef Markus Glocker, John Winterman and Drew Nieporent of New York’s Batard – which won Best New Restaurant – Cleveland Chef Jonathan Sawyer winner of Best Chef: Great Lakes; Brindelle design team duo, Tom Nahabedian and James Gorski , winners of the Outstanding New Restaurant  Design (for 75 seats and under).

Justin Carlisle, Greg and Gabrielle Denton, Matthew Accarrino and Shelley Lindgren, Thomas Lents, Chandra Ram, Cara Stadler, Carrie Nahabedian, Lally Brennan, Jessica Largey, Attila Gyulai and Komal Patel, Sam Toia and Mary Kay Bonoma, Cat DeOrio from Check, Please, Billy Dec, Choose Chicago’s CEO Don Welsh and Chairman of the Board, Desiree Rogers.

Photo Credit: David Turner


About Margaret O'Connor

Margaret J. O’Connor is the founder/owner of MarCon Communications, a public relations and special events firm which handles the publicity and event needs for a diverse range of clients. She’s involved with numerous charities in Chicago and is active in its lifestyle and social scene. She grew up and was educated in Africa, Australia and America and holds degrees in marketing and finance from the University of Illinois. She is a contributing writer to many print and digital publications and her focus is lifestyle, culinary and nonprofit events. Read more from this author.