‘Trib’ Critic Among Three Chicago James Beard Media Award Finalists

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The James Beard Foundation released its list of finalists for its 2024 Media Awards in late April, revealing four Illinois contenders.

Louisa Kung Liu Chu, food critic at the Tribune is in the running for the foundation’s Craig Claiborne Distinguished Criticism Award, designed to recognize “discerning criticism or commentary that contributes to the larger discourse on food, drink, and related topics.” The foundation specifically noted her reviews of soul food hit Soulé’s North Lawndale outpost, lauded Indian hot spot Thattu in Avondale, and decorated Avalon Park bakery Justice of the Pies. The nomination list refers to her as “Louisa Chu.”

Other Chicago finalists include Eater contributor Angela Burke for “The Sweet Solace of Grief Baking” in the Personal Essay with Recipes category and freelance writer Nylah Iqbal Muhammad, an MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award finalist for “To Find Myself, All I Needed Was a Hunting License” in Sweet July magazine. At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, assistant professor Dr. Bobby J. Smith II remains in the running for a Reference, History, and Scholarship award for his 2023 book Food Power Politics: The Food Story of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.

It’s also worth noting that suburban Chicago native Helen Rosner, staff writer at The New Yorker, is also a finalist in Chu’s category. Head over to Eater for the full list of finalists nationwide. The foundation will hand out its media awards in a ceremony on June 8 in Chicago.

Chicago Gourmet unveils 2024 theme, “Fashion, Plated”

Chicago Gourmet, the fancy annual downtown food fest that features some of the city’s best-known restaurants and chefs, seems to be leaning into its bougie reputation with its 2024 theme: “‘Fashion, Plated’ — a celebration of the seamless fusion of food and fashion,” from September 26 through 29, according to a rep.

It remains unclear how festival organizers will unite culinary and textile-based art forms, but they promise “fun, fashion-inspired events” on Chicago Gourmet’s usual stomping grounds of the Harris Theater Rooftop at Millennium Park. This year’s grand Grand Cru, an event specializing in exclusive winemakers and particularly prominent chefs, is ostensibly inspired by Vogue’s famed September issue with “blackout party” and “white party” sessions in the afternoon and evening respectively. Stay tuned for more as the Illinois Restaurant Association will launch ticket sales and release a full chef lineup in late July.

A Florida strip club faces backlash for potential Berlin takeover

There’s drama afoot in Lakeview as a Florida-based male strip club moves toward an opening at 954 W. Belmont Avenue, the former home of shuttered LGBTQ nightclub icon Berlin. As of Monday morning, more than 1,300 people have signed an online petition to stop the opening of Johnson’s Chicago and keep it from participating in the city’s Pride Parade in June. Local queer advocate Daniel Perez, CEO of nonprofit DelRey Productions, tells reporters that he created the petition after perusing social media posts from Johnson’s owner Matt Colunga. Perez specifically calls out Colunga’s posts about hiring dancers based on their appearance, including a reference to “straight muscle boys.” Head to Block Club Chicago for more on this story.

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards. Eater is partnering with the James Beard Foundation to livestream the awards in 2024. All editorial content is produced independently of the James Beard Foundation.


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