Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Year 2012 Was An Incredibly Outrageous Time For Chicago's Restaurants & Bars

Left photo via Proof nightclub; right photo via Jessica Harr's Facebook page.


This year has really gone by quickly. Part of the reason is because 2012 was one of the most outrageous years to date for the dining and drinking scene.

Here's what really stuck out in my mind:

10. Bruce Sherman gets Beard; snubbed by Michelin. The North Pond chef/owner had been nominated for the prestigious James Beard award five years in a row before he was finally awarded Best Chef: Great Lakes for 2012. While that was completely awesome and cool, he was overlooked for the third year in a row by Michelin when he was not awarded any stars for the 2013 guide.

9. Carrie Nahabedian loses 120 pounds in less than a year. Naha's very outspoken chef/owner decided to go on an extreme diet to take charge of her health.

8. Craig Schoettler gets the boot from The Aviary. The award-winning bartender/chef received all types of accolades before his firing from the innovative cocktail lounge. He's now working a more low-key bartending position at Drumbar—which was recently vacated by Benjamin Newby, who left to pursue other opportunities.

7. Bryce Caron gets fired from Blackbird. The talented pastry chef started the year off on a high note with major props from Food & Wine. Then by spring he was unceremoniously dismissed from Blackbird, then a few months later angrily walked out of Graham Elliot. A few days later, he explained his hasty decision on his blog.

6. Alain's shutters after only a month and a half in business. I had highly recommended that folks give this Cameroonian-focused restaurant in the South Loop a shot after a grand meal with my well-traveled mother. But alas, it closed the following week due to mismanagement of $$$.

5. Andrew Brochu gets fired from Graham Elliot. There's so much drama surrounding Brochu's exit, but it had apparently been going on for a few months. Before he left, the Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel awarded the restaurant three stars and it garnered two stars from the Michelin inspectors. Michelin, however, insists that the restaurant's second star was the result of hard work of Graham Elliot himself. It's a highly controversial subject.

4. Charlie Trotter's closes after 25 years. The ground-breaking chef announced on Dec. 31, 2011, his plans to close his iconic restaurant at the end of August 2012. Foodies scrambled to get reservations and food writers scrambled even more to write the most memorable stories. The Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro contributed the most intense and in-depth three-part series that covered the highs and lows of the pioneering chef.

3. Michael Carlson sets off fireworks and is arrested. According to Ultimate Insiders, the Schwa owner/chef had been shooting off large fireworks in the alley behind his innovative eatery for a few days before the cops caught up with him.

2. Steve Dolinsky vs. Graham Elliot. The celebrated food & drink writer/ television personality showed up one afternoon for lunch at the newly opened g.e.b. and was soon shown the door. There is apparently some bad blood between these two guys.

1. A bartender goes on a disgustingly racist rant on Facebook and is fired by Proof nightclub. Gotta give props to the Gold Coast venue for immediately taking action after Jessica Harr posted some disturbing comments about African Americans on her Facebook page. When she was called out by her boss, she stood by her comments, which led to her immediate dismissal. I hope this person never gets a position where she has to handle food and/or drinks for others' consumption . . .

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