The nominations for the 2013 Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence were announced early this morning.The Chicago-based awards recognizes “culinary originality and talent in the Chicagoland area,” according to a prepared statement. In all, 44 chefs, restaurants, sommeliers and mixologists are among the nominees. The award is named in honor of legendary Chef Banchet, who helmed Wheeling’s iconic Le Francais (once heralded as the best restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine), from 1973 to 2001.

The winners will be announced on Jan. 31, 2014, as part of the 17th annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Grand Chefs Gala at the Fairmont Chicago.

The nominees are as follows:

Chef of the Year: Curtis Duffy (Grace), Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA), Paul Virant (Vie/Perennial Virant), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia)

Pastry Chef of the Year: Lisa Bonjour (mk), Craig Harzewski (NAHA), Elissa Narow (Vie/Perennial Virant), Leigh Omilinsky (Cafe des Architectes)

Best Chef-de-Cuisine: Ali Ratcliffe-Bauer (Brindille), Andres Padilla (Topolobampo), Sean Pharr (NoMI Kitchen), Nicholas Romero (Grace)

Rising Chef of the Year: Thai Dang (Embeya), Nicole Pederson (Found), Tom Van Lente (TWO), Lee Wolen (formerly of Lobby Restaurant at the Peninsula Chicago)

Rising Pastry Chef of the Year: Dana Cree (Blackbird), Sarah Mispagel (Nightwood), Thomas Raquel (Acadia), Bobby Schaffer (Grace)

Best Sommelier: Valerie Cao (Grace), Chad Ellegood (NoMI Kitchen), Richard Hanauer (The Langham), Arthur Hon (Sepia)

Best Mixologist: Charles Joly (The Aviary), Paul McGee (Three Dots and a Dash), Danielle Pizzutillo (Embeya), Sergio Serna (The Drawing Room)

Best Restaurant Design: Balena, Boarding House, Brindille, Embeya

Best Restaurant Service: Balena, Grace, Nightwood, Sixteen

Best New Restaurant: Fat Rice, Found, Gather, Travelle, TWO

Restaurant of the Year: Acadia, Brindille, Embeya, Grace

For tickets to the gala event, or more information,

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