Backstage at the Beard Awards: Chicago Edition

Portraits from the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago

On Monday night, the Chicago Lyric Opera House flooded with chefs, bartenders, restaurateurs, and lots of tuxedos for the James Beard Awards, that annual mashup of The Oscars and prom night that honors restaurants, bars, and the people who make them happen. It was a big night for New York chefs, who took the Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Restaurant, and Outstanding Chef categories. It was also a night of firsts: This was the first year that Chicago hosted the awards, and the inaugural year for the Outstanding Baker category. There were ice sculptures! There were countless flasks! There was a lot of hugging! And we were backstage, convincing winners and minglers to pose for our camera.

Daniel Boulud James Beard

Daniel Boulud, Force of Nature

Boulud tells us that he's never grown a beard, "But I will for you. As long as you don't complain."Matt Taylor-Gross
Jessica Largey

Jessica Largey (right) of Manresa, Winner: Rising Star Chef

When we asked how Largey was so calm, her best friend Katherine Sacks interjected: "Because we knew all along!"Matt Taylor-Gross
Christina Tosi James Beard Award

Christina Tosi, Outstanding Pastry Chef, Momofuku Milk Bar

What would a James Beard cookie look like? "I'm thinking of the James Beard dinner rolls—I would make a riff on strawberry shortcake with those."Matt Taylor-Gross

Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern, Best Chef: Great Lakes (pictured with his wife Amelia)

How did Sawyer prepare his beard for the Beards? "I’ve been eating a lot more protein to make sure it was shiny."Matt Taylor-Gross

Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Winner of Best Chef New York City

Matt Taylor-Gross
Candace Jordan, Chicago Tribune

Candace Jordan, Chicago Tribune

Matt Taylor-Gross
Maison Premiere

Will Elliott, Shae Minnillo, and Maxwell Britton of Maison Premiere

Elliott, Minnillo, and Britton gave us their best "Malort faces"—the infamous face a person makes after taking a shot of the Chicago-made wormwood liquor.Matt Taylor-Gross
Mary Ogushwitz

Mary Ogushwitz, Logistical Powerhouse, Magrino PR

Matt Taylor-Gross
Chef Edward Lee

Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia, Nominee: Best Chef Southeast

“This really helps my reputation.”Matt Taylor-Gross

Natalie Dupree, Cookbook Author

"I have this wooden sculpture of a country woman, and we called her 'always a bridesmaid, never a bride.' So she wears my Beard awards as compensation. They've changed the color, you know—they used to be gold."Matt Taylor-Gross
Ming Tsai JBFA

Ming Tsai, chef and television personality

"It says, 'f*ck you Chicago!' Just kidding. It says 'I love Chicago.'"Matt Taylor-Gross
The Violet Hour

The Violet Hour , Outstanding Bar Program, Outstanding Outfits

Matt Taylor-Gross
Nick Kokonas James Beard

Nick Kokonas, Owner, Alinea Restaurant / Next / The Aviary

Matt Taylor-Gross
Shelley Lindgren

Shelley Lindgren, Wine Director, A16. Winner: Outstanding Beverage Program

“We started with Champagne, so I’ve been on bubbles and coffee all day. I’m in it for the long haul.”Matt Taylor-Gross
Adam Sachs Blaine Wetzel

Adam Sachs, Editor-in-Chief, and Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Best Chef: Northwest

Matt Taylor-Gross
Curtis Stone JBFA

Curtis Stone, chef

"Oh, she'll love this!"Matt Taylor-Gross
Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinsky

Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinsky, State Bird Provisions and The Progress, Winners of Best Chef: West

Spotted at the after-party: Nicole generously handing out extra face glitter to all interested parties.Matt Taylor-Gross
Richard Melman

Richard Melman, restaurateur, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

"I’m going wherever they want me to go, and I’ll eat ramen and drink Champagne, and I’ll be in bed by midnight."Matt Taylor-Gross
Maricel Presilla

Maricel Presilla, Chef, Author, Restaurateur

"Whenever people ask me for advice, I tell them: "Dont expect anything."Matt Taylor-Gross
Matt Taylor-Gross and Aaron Franklin

Matt Taylor-Gross and Franklin Barbecue's Aaron Franklin, Best Chef: Southwest

Marian Bull

Dale Degroff, Cocktail Legend

Matt Taylor-Gross

The Violet Hour 's Toby Maloney, Dale Degroff, and their flasks.

"I'm drinking gin and juice," said Maloney, whose team won Outstanding Bar Program. "I've got my mind on my money and my money on my mind."Matt Taylor-Gross
Alon Shaya James Beard

Alon Shaya, Best Chef South, and wife Emily Shaya

"Kebabka is a babka stuffed with roasted kebabs. It will be the official Bar Mitvah food of 2015, until the end of time. Kebabka is a lifestyle."Matt Taylor-Gross
Donnie Madia James Beard

Outstanding Restaurateur Donnie Madia with his wife, Estelle Madia

Madia hosted an afterparty at Big Star, where he jumped atop the bar to address the crowds, and the tequila and tortilla chips flowed like water.Matt Taylor-Gross
Dan Barber James Beard

Dan Barber, chef at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Outstanding Restaurant winner

"I wore this suit to my bar mitzvah."Matt Taylor-Gross
Jonathan Waxman

Jonathan Waxman, chef

"My first restaurant job was in Hawaii in the 70s at The Rusty Harpoon—shit, I’ve been doing this for 40 years."Matt Taylor-Gross
Kat Kinsman James Beard

Kat Kinsman, Editor-in-Chief, Tasting Table

Matt Taylor-Gross
Chef Mike Anthony James Beard

Mike Anthony, Outstanding Chef

When asked about his celebration plan, Anthony gave us one word: "Tacos."Matt Taylor-Gross
Marian Bull James Beard

Marian Bull, editor

Matt Taylor-Gross