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The Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence has announced the nominees for its 2020 awards, which recognize culinary originality and talent in the Chicago area.

The winners across 15 categories — including Chef of the Year, Restaurant of the Year,  Best New Restaurant and others — will be announced at the Jan. 19 Jean Banchet Awards, an event that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. 

“Winning a Jean Banchet Award is often a predictor of even bigger accolades and national awards to come,” said Michael Muser, who will be emceeing the award show for the fifth year in a row. Muser is chief of operations for Chicago’s Ever restaurant.

Here are the nominees:

Chef of the Year, presented by S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water & Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water

Honoring culinary excellence and advancing the state of Chicago dining and the industry.

  • Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp (Honey Butter Fried Chicken) 
  • John Manion (El Che Steakhouse & Bar, La Sirena Clandestina) 
  • Anna and David Posey (Elske) 
  • Erick Williams (Virtue Restaurant & Bar)

Previous winner: Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe, Marisol)

Restaurant of the Year, presented by the Illinois Restaurant Association

Honoring the standout restaurant of the year. (Nominees must have opened prior to December 2017.)

  • Brindille
  • mfk. restaurant
  • Oriole
  • Smyth

Previous winner: George Trois

Rising Chef of the Year

Honoring the most exciting talent to have arrived on the scene within the last two years.

  • Larry Feldmeier (the Albert)
  • Jess Galli (Middle Brow Bungalow) 
  • Justin Moser (Table, Donkey and Stick)
  • Jose Sosa (Gibsons Italia) 

Previous winner: Alisha Elenz (mfk. Restaurant)

Best New Restaurant

Honoring the most exciting new restaurant. (Nominees must have opened since November 2017.)  

  • Galit 
  • Jeong
  • Kyōten
  • wherewithall

Previous winner: S.K.Y.

Best Chef-de-Cuisine, presented by Sparrow Coffee Roastery 

Honoring the names of tomorrow doing exceptional work in Chicago’s restaurants.

  • Justin Kaialoa (The Bristol) 
  • Brianna Meyers (BOKA) 
  • Mariya Russell (Kumiko | Kikkō)
  • Sahil Sethi (ROOH)

Previous winner: Ryan Pfeiffer (Blackbird)

Pastry Chef of the Year

Honoring the standouts who create the endings that ensure meals are memorable.

  • Jared Bacheller (Entente)
  • Craig Harzewski (Brindille) 
  • Leigh Omilinsky (Bellemore, Cold Storage, Swift & Sons) 
  • Chris Teixeira (The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group)

Previous winner: Nicole Guini (Blackbird)

Rising Pastry Chef of the Year, presented by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 

Honoring the rising talents in the world of pastry and dessert.

  • Juan Gutierrez (Longman & Eagle) 
  • Amanda Hogue (Monteverde)  
  • Jacquelyn Lopez (NoMI Kitchen)
  • Tatum Sinclair (S.K.Y.) 

Previous winner: Elaine Townsend (Fat Rice)

Best Neighborhood Restaurant

Honoring the restaurants that help define their neighborhoods with excellence in food and service.

  • Café Marie – Jeanne 
  • Le Sud 
  • Munno Pizzeria & Bistro
  • Passerotto 

Previous winner: Pizzeria Bebu

Best Heritage Restaurant 

Honoring the restaurants working within a cultural tradition and heritage.

  • Bayan Ko
  • Cafe Istanbul
  • La Mom Kitchen 
  • Xocome Antojeria 

Previous winner: A Place BY DAMAO

Best Counter Service 

Honoring casual dining experiences that stand out in creativity and execution.

  • Landbirds
  • Publican Quality Meats
  • Thattu 
  • Tortello

Previous winner: Calumet Fisheries

Best Bar 

Honoring the most exceptional and innovative establishments in beverage service.

  • Bar Sótano
  • Kumiko
  • Red & White Wine Bar 
  • Scofflaw

Previous winner: Moody Tongue

Best Bartender, presented by Breakthru Beverage Illinois

Honoring the most creative and outstanding talents in preparing and serving beverages.

  • Kevin Beary (The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash) 
  • Roger Landes and Lanie Bayless (Bar Sótano) 
  • Juanjo Pulgarin (Vajra)
  • Lee Zaremba (Lazy Bird) 

Previous winner: Stephanie Andrews (Billy Sunday)

Best Sommelier

Honoring the wine professional who stands out for the best program and presentation.

  • Marie Cheslik (Elske)
  • Aaron McManus (Oriole)
  • Richie Ribando (Smyth) 
  • Matthew Sussman (Table, Donkey and Stick) 

Previous winner: Jill Gubesch (Frontera Group)

Best Restaurant Service 

Honoring the establishment providing the highest level of welcoming and helpful service.

  • Gibsons Italia
  • Naoki Sushi
  • S.K.Y.
  • Smyth

Previous winner: Temporis

Best Restaurant Design 

Honoring the most creative and impressive design for a restaurant or other establishment.

  • Cabra Cevicheria
  • Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink
  • Tzuco
  • Virtue Restaurant & Bar 

Previous winner: Pacific Standard Time

The Jean Banchet Culinary Achievement Award

Honoring a career in excellence and support of the Chicago restaurant community.

2020 Honoree: Chef Ina Pinkney (Ina’s)  


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