Every profession likes to honor its best, and foodies are no exception. The James Beard Foundation Awards celebrate excellence in the culinary world, and the 2012 winners were announced last night. The best part for the man who loves to eat? JBF gives out regional awards, helping you find some of the greatest grub across the country. Here are 15 freshly minted honorees and why you should check them out. (Wondering where to get the mouth-watering center cut pork chop above? See the very end of this roundup.)
Best Chef: Great Lakes
Bruce Sherman of North Pond in Chicago
Best Reason to Visit: Check out the Chicago skyline while you nosh on local, seasonal food, remembering a time before December strawberries.
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama in Hoboken, New Jersey
Best Reason to Visit: Presilla combines old school Latin American cooking with new school technologies, making life richer in Hoboken.
Best Chef: Midwest
Tory Miller of L’Etoile in Madison, Wisconsin
Best Reason to Visit:: Another seasonal and local joint, L’Etoile could conceivably be a different restaurant every time you pop in.
Best Reason to Visit: If you’re looking to feel posh, hit up Gramercy Tavern, which offers high-end contemporary cuisine and is among New York magazine’s favorite restaurants.
Best Chef: Northeast
Tim Cushman of O Ya in Boston
Best Reason to Visit: Premium sake. O Ya is also very reasonably priced for an upscale Japanese joint. Broaden your palate in “Bawstin.”
Best Chef: Northwest
Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce in Seattle
Best Reason to Visit: Dillon raises his own chickens, which are the source of his eggs. We are guessing they are seriously fresh.
Best Chef: Pacific
Matt Molina of Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles
Best Reason to Visit: You want to sample the culinary delicacies of Italy at an affordable—relatively speaking—price. And you trust the guy on the right (Molina) to bring it to you.
Best Chef: South
Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama
Best Reason to Visit: You want an Iron Chef winner to fry you up some fan-freakin’-tastic fish.
Best Reason to Visit: You want to eat at a world-class restaurant so unpretentious it has a menu section called “snackies” (Five and Ten) or you want a place so perfectionist that it makes its own mayonnaise by hand (Restaurant Eugene).
Best Chef: Southwest
Paul Qui of Uchiko in Austin, Texas
Best Reason to Visit: You’re not that into Iron Chef and want a Top Chef winner to cook for you.
Best New Restaurant
Next in Chicago
Best Reason to Visit: It’s a totally unique dining experience. They don’t do reservations. You buy a ticket and they feed you.
Rising Star Chef of the Year
Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York
Best Reason to Visit: You want American food that’s as diverse as the country it’s named for.
Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York
Best Reason to Visit: You’re looking for that high-end New York dining experience with a modern twist—like local, seasonal food.
Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco
Best Reason to Visit: As if being named “Outstanding Restaurant” wasn’t enough reason, Boulevard offers fancy takes on the foods you love—like that pork chop at the top—that will leave your unforgettably satiated.