The Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence named Galit, a Middle Eastern eatery in Lincoln Park, Restaurant of the Year and Paul Virant, owner of Vie, Vistro Prime and Gaijin, Chef of the Year during its Jan. 28 awards show at Venue SIX10.

Jean Banchet Awards Winners Announced

Former Chicago Tribune food critic Phil Vettel received the organization’s highest honor, the Culinary Excellence of the Year Award.


“Phil wrote about Chicago’s culinary community for more than 30 years, launching the careers of many people on this list,” event organizer and Ever Restaurant and After lounge co-owner Michael Muser said. “Night after night, he was out eating, always operating with integrity and generosity.”


Highlights from the evening include:

  • Phil Vettel received a standing ovation from a sold out house after an introduction from Chicago’s Breakfast Queen, Ina Pinkney. Vettel said: “The only thing more surreal than getting paid to eat in the greatest restaurant city in the country is getting an award for doing it.”
  • A tearful acceptance speech for the Best Hospitality award by Bronzeville Winery’s Cecilia Cuff as she introduced several members of her team who have grown alongside the restaurant since opening in 2022.
  • Darren Gest, co-founder of Chicago Chefs Cook, stated how the room was not only filled with incredibly talented chefs, but culinary talent with the ability to become very “powerful leaders” in the community.
  • Omar Cadena, who accepted the award for Best Counter Service for Omarcito’s Latin Cafe in Logan Square, was at a “loss for words” as he reflected on the importance of the award to him, and his history as just a “simple blue collar kid from the neighborhood”.


Winners and nominees are listed below. Winners in each category are highlighted.


Restaurant of the Year 


*Galit – Winner








Chef of the Year


*Paul Virant – Winner

Vie, Vistro Prime, Gaijin 


Paul Fehribach

Big Jones


Genie Kwon and Tim Flores



Stephen Gillanders

S.K.Y., Valhalla, Apolonia


Best New Restaurant


*Indienne – Winner








Rising Chef of the Year


*Trevor Fleming  – Winner

Emily Kraszyk

John Lupton



Margaret Pak



Christian Hunter



Damarr Brown



Bar of the Year


*Best Intentions – Winner




Cherry Circle Room




Pastry Chef of the Year


*Tatum Sinclair – Winner

S.K.Y., Valhalla, Apolonia


Maya-Camille Broussard

Justice of the Pies


Valeria Socorro Velazquez Lindsten

Loba Pastry


Erin Kobler

Sepia, Proxi


Sommelier of the Year


*Christian Shaum – Winner

Bazaar Meat


Daniel Bennett



Alex Cuper

El Che Steakhouse & Bar


Amber Pike

Andros Taverna


Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year


*Pompette – Winner




Torchio Pasta Bar


Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern


Heritage Restaurant of the Year


*Rubi’s on 18th – Winner


Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant


Tuk Tuk Thai Isan Street Food


Thalaiva’s Indian Kitchen


Best Counter Service


*Omarcitos Latin Café – Winner


Loaf Lounge


Flour Power


JT’s Genuine Sandwich Shop


Best Hospitality


*Bronzeville Winery – Winner


Dear Margaret






Best Restaurant Design


*The Omakase Room at Sushi-San – Winner




Bistro Monadnock




Culinary Excellence of the Year Award


*Phil Vettel

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The Banchets returned this year in partnership with Chicago Chefs Cook, which unifies Chicago’s culinary community to provide humanitarian relief locally and globally. Led by chef Sarah Stegner, Eda Davidman, Jodi Fyfe, Melissa Clark and Darren Gest, the organization has raised more than $1 million since 2022 to feed those impacted by crises, both globally and locally.


Chicago Chefs Cook selected the Virtue Leadership Development Program, founded by 2022 Jean Banchet Chef of the Year Erick Williams of Virtue restaurant, as the charity beneficiary of this year’s awards show. The program, which will receive a portion of proceeds, teaches local young adults of color value-driven entrepreneurship through training at the restaurant.


The Banchets, named for the chef who put Chicago fine dining on the map in the 1970s and ‘80s with Le Francais, recognize innovators on the local restaurant scene. Since its creation in 2002, the event has grown into a celebration of the high caliber and diversity of talent in the Chicago region’s food and beverage industry.