Buzz List for January 16, 2017
Banchet Awards honor Bayless, Blackbird and Brochu, Stephanie to become a magazine, more food halls are coming (but what will they have?), and the wrath of Kokonas.
1. BANCHET IT!
The Jean Banchet Awards, benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, were given last night at a packed house and, to judge by the applause, to general agreement from an audience of industry folks. Restaurant of the year went to Blackbird, in a new phase of its life under Ryan Pfeiffer, while Andrew Brochu, a chef of great promise who’s bounced around a bit for some years after Kith & Kin, was honored as chef of the year at Roister. To no one’s surprise Oriole took best new restaurant, the whole crew up there but even Cara Sandoval admitting to being shy about standing on stage (chef Noah pretended to hide behind her), and Bill Montagne and Jennifer Kim of the much-loved Snaggletooth took Rising Chef of the Year.
Other prizes include Meg Galus (Boka and others), Best Pastry Chef; Alison Cates (Honey’s) as Rising Pastry Chef; Wilson Bauer of Schwa as Best Chef-de-Cuisine; Rachel Driver Speckan (City Winery) as Best Sommelier (she said this was her first trip out of the house on maternity leave, then congratulated fellow nominee Parag Lalit on his newborn); Julia Momose, who just left GreenRiver, for Best Mixologist; Boka for Best Service; Dixie for Best Design; Sumi Robata Bar for Best Neighborhood Restaurant; Nomad, the pizza truck usually at Green City Market, for Best Alternative Dining, a new category; and Fooditor fave 5 Loaves Eatery for Best Ethnic Restaurant.
The In Memoriam section paid tribute to the late Chef Jean-Claude Poilevey of Le Bouchon and Le Sardine, his son Oliver offering reminiscences, as well Modern Luxury publisher John Carroll, Tribune writer William Rice and Burt Katz of Burt’s Pizza (I gave the latter two). While the award for Culinary Achievement went, inarguably, to Rick Bayless, who gave a warm speech about the tightness of the Chicago food community—also inarguable last night.
2. STIRRING UP TROUBLE
It was a week for troubled names getting in more trouble: Finch Brewing has yet another new brewery in yet another comeback attempt, while Bow Truss Coffee’s deal with Marcus Lemonis fell through (maybe because Phil Tadros didn’t go away as initial reports said he would) and when they didn’t get paid, the employees walked out, shuttering the chain. (Crain’s had the initial story, but it’s beyond the paywall, so read Eater’s precis.)
Somehow Mike Sula manages to be fairly complimentary toward Knife’s menu of supper club and steakhouse classics even when his review contains the phrase “That 28-ounce, 28-day dry-aged rib eye for me was a disaster.” But “The sides that accompany this mountain of bad butchery, however, are enjoyable, and they demonstrate Knife’s potential—provided that service keeps pace—to evolve into something more than textbook.”
4. A STEPH'S LIFE
Hey, we all know that cooking is fine but the big money is in writing about food, so this makes sense: Stephanie Izard is reported to be planning a food and lifestyle magazine, a la Rachel Ray. Hey, she’s got the million-watt smile, she’s got an adorable kid, and she can really cook, so why not? (Crain’s)
5. HERITAGE PARK
A new restaurant from some names with good names on their resumes in Oak Park, but Phil Vettel’s two star review doesn’t make it sound like city folks really need to race to The Heritage yet: “Though the menu is compact — just seven appetizers and six entrees to choose among — its flavors and influences are widespread, with many from the Mediterranean… The menu headings are modest to a fault… The elements are a bit of a mishmash… The kitchen is strong with comfort food.” When the chef says “we try to keep it broadly focused,” at best you can hope it’s still finding a narrower focus to excel at. Bonus weirdness: the bartender’s name is, honest to God, Nick Kokonas.
6. HALL MONITOR
On the heels of the success of Revival Food Hall, two new food halls have been announced, one for Wacker and Wells and one for the Magnificent Mile. The question is, are there enough artisanal tacos and Nashville hot chicken places to fill them all with top-quality stuff, or will they be more like Lettuce Entertain You’s (rather staid-seeming by now) Foodlife?
Bummer: Redeye is going from weekday publication to a once-a-week weekend guide. While that would seem to suggest that they’d still need restaurant reviews, who knows, as one music reporter has already acknowledged that he’s out—I hope we’re not about to lose Michael Nagrant (again) as one of the last of the old school reviewers of record in this town.
8. GO FUNKY YOURSELF
David Hammond on a hearty, peasanty, offal-y Korean soup: “Gamjatang, like chitterlings in the Southern United States, is a dish born of necessity that uses what others may toss in the trash. No one is going to argue that pork spine is a treasured cut of meat.”
9. WRATH OF KOKONAS
Nick Kokonas—the Alinea and Tock one—gets righteous on some guy who missed his Alinea reservation, then blamed it all on them in a Yelp review. I’m not entirely a fan of the Tock system, but blowing it and then smearing somebody’s business on Yelp when you know you’re playing by their rules is just foolish.
10. "Y'ALL READY FOR DELICIOUSNESS?"
A flavorful audio portrait from CHIRP Radio/City Bureau by Sarah Conway of Kyle Kelly, the Englewood-based owner of a South Side food truck, The Cajun Connoisseur.
11. NEW HOPE FOR THE DELI
In Beverly, new owners try to keep the potato salad flowing. (DNAInfo)
12. KURD HEARD
We have Turkish, but what’s Kurdish food exactly? Spicier, says the owner of Gundis Kurdish Kitchen. (Eater)
13. NEIL SEMAR
A poignant look at the early success of a skateboarding star who died a few weeks ago. Why is that here? Because he was also a server at Oriole, and you may have seen him there.