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Logan Square restaurant wins James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality

The eyes of the culinary world turned toward Chicago on Monday for the presentation of the James Beard Awards.

The nominees in the 22 categories included three Chicago chefs and a Chicago restaurant, but only one took home a win.

Anna Polskey, of Else, was among five nominees in the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker category. Lula Cafe was up against four other eateries in the Outstanding Hospitality category. And chefs Sujan Sarker of Indienne and Jenner Tomaska of Esma were both nominated in the Best Chef category from the Great Lakes region.

Lula Cafe, which won in the Outstanding Hospitality category, was the only Chicago-based winner on Monday afternoon.

The nominees covered a diverse range of cuisine and chef experience, a recent shift following turbulent, pandemic-era years for the James Beard Foundation. 

The James Beard Foundation has bestowed awards since 1991, except in 2020 and 2021 when the organization scrapped them as the restaurant industry was reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Restaurants apply for the awards. Judges, who mostly remain anonymous, try the cuisine before voting. Nominees are reviewed for the food as well as for a behavioral “code of ethics,” including how employees are treated.

For restaurants, just being a finalist can bring wide recognition and boost business. Restaurant awards have become less common in recent years, giving the James Beard Awards even more weight.