James Beard Awards live coverage from the Chicago Tribune

The James Beard Foundation Awards return to Chicago on Monday after a two-year hiatus, celebrating the best and brightest of the culinary world on a national scale.

Chicago Tribune food critics Louisa Chu and Nick Kindelsperger will be on the scene Monday, providing live coverage to prominent chefs and restaurateurs from across the country gather at Lyric’s Civic Opera Building for the award ceremony. Follow them on Twitter, and check back here for live updates throughout the night.

Scroll down to watch live video from the ceremony.

Chef Erick Williams of Virtue Restaurant in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, wins Best Chef: Great Lakes, a category that includes chefs from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

The crowd wildly cheered as Williams’ name was called out. He thanked his ancestors for fighting for equity long before it was a trending topic.

“Chefs stand up every day in kitchens, working in spaces that become more and more difficult every day,” Williams said during his acceptance speech. “It’s hard for us to staff, and create, and yet we continue to be committed so that we can change lives through food.”

As regional best chef awards progress, Chicago finalists will be last in the lineup as four of the five finalists in the Great Lakes category.

Until then, a few observations from Tribune critic Nick Kindelsperger: Christian Clemenson, the actor who played James Beard in the recent TV show, Julia, was on stage to deliver the awards for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific and Best Chef: Texas.

Dawn Padmore, vice president of awards for the James Beard Foundation, led a moment of silence for all the restaurant workers who lost their lives during the pandemic.

And a little more on those killer suits from Kasama chefs Genie Kwon and Tim Flores: “We knew we wanted to match,” Kwon said of the burnt sienna suits. “I think that was the only thing that we planned. Usually everybody thinks that we’re going to wear matching jumpsuits, which we did earlier today, but we decided to get a little more sophisticated.”

The second category with a Chicago finalist is Outstanding Bar Program. The national award went to Houston’s Julep.

Nobody’s Darling, a queer bar in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, became a finalist within its first year, a rare achievement. Read more from the Tribune’s Josh Noel on how the fledgling bar took flight.

The first James Beard Award with a Chicago finalist is Outstanding Baker, which goes to Don Guerra of Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona. The Chicago nominee was Maya-Camille Broussard of Justice of the Pies.

Tornado sirens blared through the streets of downtown Chicago just as the James Beard Foundation Awards began.

The ceremony nonetheless began, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot welcoming guests with opening remarks.

Lightfoot was excited to speak at the event, the first that she’s been able to attend in person, she said: “Let’s continue to support our restaurants, from the mom and pop diners to James Beard award winners.”

The pre-event red carpet featured Chicago nominees and other notable figures.

Chicago chefs and Kasama co-owners Genie Kwon and Timothy Flores, both sported colorful suits. The couple’s acclaimed Filipino restaurant is a finalist for Best New Restaurant.

“It’s such an honor to be nominated,” Flores said.

On the red carpet, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said food and drink are central to how she celebrates a big event, like an election night win.

“First of all, I’m going to make sure I have great local wines,” Lightfoot said. “And I’m going to have the end of the evening with a great after dinner drink from a Chicago distillery in between, I’m going to make sure that the appetizers are tight, and tasty.”

This year’s awards come after the foundation’s 2020 reckoning with a lack of diversity among its would-be winners. The foundation its awards canceled the first years of the pandemic and during an audit of its judging practices more, pledging to become equitable return of its awards this year.

Nine Chicago chefs, restaurants and bars are up for six awards. Among the nominees for national awards are Jason Vincent, owner and operator of Logan Square’s Giant, for Outstanding Chef; contemporary Korean restaurant Parachute, nominated for Outstanding Restaurant; and Kasama, nominated for Best New Restaurant.

Nobody’s Darling, an Edgewater cocktail bar open less than a year that its Black women owners described as “a lesbian bar, and a gay bar, and a queer bar, and a trans bar,” is a finalist for Outstanding Bar Program.

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Maya-Camille Broussard of Justice of the Pies is nominated for Outstanding Baker.

Chicago also has four of the five Best Chef nominations from the Great Lakes region: Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe; Noah Sandoval of Oriole; John Shields and Karen Urie Shields of Smyth; and Erick Williams of Virtue Restaurant & Bar.

Chicago took home an early victory Saturday during the James Beard Foundation Media Awards, as Kumiko bar and creative director Julia Momosé and co-author Emma Janzen won for “The Way of the Cocktail,” in the category of beverage books with recipes.

“It’s been a really tough time for us in restaurants and bars and everything, but the fact that we have this chance to share our stories through food and through drink and writing is just one of the most incredible things in the world,” Momosé said Saturday.

The foundation also named Chicago’s Erika Allen as one of its four 2022 Leadership Awards winners, honored for their work toward creating a healthier, more equitable and sustainable food system. Allen is co-founder and CEO of Urban Growers Collective, a nonprofit farm on the city’s South Side, and co-owner of Green Era Sustainability Partners, which seeks to improve management of biodegradable waste and access to soil.

More Tribune coverage of Beard award finalists:

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