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Inside Kendall

Kendall College Alumni Recognized by the James Beard Foundation

Six alumni of Chicago’s Kendall College have been recognized by this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards, widely considered to be the most prestigious honors given in the food industry. Kendall, ranked as Chicago’s number one school for preparing students for careers in hospitality management and the culinary arts,* boasts one alumni winner, one finalist and four semifinalists in the 2018 James Beard Awards.

Laura Cheng (Culinary Arts, ’07) won the America’s Classic award for her leadership at Sun Wah, a Hong Kong-style barbecue restaurant that she co-owns and operates in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. The America’s Classic award honors chefs whose cuisine reflects the character of regional communities.

And for the second year in a row, Beverly Kim (Culinary Arts, ’00) was named a finalist for Best Chef, Great Lakes. Kim and her husband Johnny Clark own and operate Parachute, a Korean and American restaurant in Chicago.

Kendall alumni often count among those recognized for James Beard Awards. In fact, this year makes the 14th consecutive year of Kendall representation at the awards, including nominees, semi-finalists, finalists and winners. Several alumni have been nominated multiple times.

Called “the Oscars of food,” the James Beard Awards are voted on by more than 600 culinary professionals. Kendall’s four alumni semifinalists for this year’s awards include:

  • Ryan McCaskey (Culinary Arts, ‘96), a semifinalist for Best Chef, Great Lakes. McCaskey owns and operates Acadia, a contemporary American restaurant in Chicago.
  • Greg Baxtrom (Culinary Arts, ‘05), a semifinalist for Best Chef, New York City region. Baxtrom owns Olmsted, a farm-to-table establishment in Brooklyn.
  • Jennifer Jones Enyart (Baking and Pastry, ‘06), a semifinalist in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category. Enyart is co-owner of Dos Urban Cantina, a Mexican-inspired restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.
  • Michelle Gayer (Baking and Pastry, ‘90), a semifinalist in the Outstanding Baker category. Gayer owns and operates Salty Tart, a Minneapolis bakery.

“It takes countless hours and an outstanding work ethic to earn the recognition of the James Beard Foundation,” said Paul Lussow, president of Kendall College. “We are incredibly proud of this group of Kendall alumni for this achievement.”

Kendall College will host the James Beard Awards brunch and panel on campus on Sunday, May 6. And for the third year in a row, Kendall is sponsoring the James Beard Awards Gala Ceremony & Reception, which will take place on Monday, May 7, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

For aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals who are interested in learning more about Kendall’s Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry, Hospitality and other programs, visit


*KTNS Global survey, 2017

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