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Fat Rice Chefs Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo Named James Beard Semifinalists

By Victoria Johnson | February 19, 2014 4:17pm
 Fat Rice chefs Adrienne Lo (l.) and Abraham Conlon were selected as semifinalists for the 2014 James Beard awards.
Fat Rice chefs Adrienne Lo (l.) and Abraham Conlon were selected as semifinalists for the 2014 James Beard awards.
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Galdones Photography

LOGAN SQUARE — They must be doing something right at Fat Rice.

After being open just 15 months, the restaurant has added another honor to its list, which already included being named one of Bon Appétit's best new restaurants of 2013 and making the Michelin Guide's 2014 Bib Gourmand list.

Now Fat Rice's chefs and co-owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, who also happen to be a couple, have been named as semifinalists for the prestigious 2014 James Beard Awards.

The organization announced the semifinalists Wednesday.

Conlon seemed to be in shock when reached by phone Wednesday but thrilled nonetheless.

"Yeah, that's kind of crazy," he said. "I didn't even know what a semifinalist was."

He was familiar with James Beard, of course, but said he would have never guessed he and Lo and Fat Rice would be in the mix — at least not yet.

"I didn't pay attention to it because there's ton of awesome restaurants and long-vetted chefs" in Chicago, he said. "I mean, the restaurant is young so I wasn't expecting anything like this to come, but it's an honor and it's exciting, and we're happy to be in such great company."

Conlon said he knew Fat Rice was on the New York-based foundation's radar after one of its dishes was named among the foundation's favorites of 2013, but was still pleasantly surprised to be named a semifinalist.

"It's all new to me. I woke up this morning and I was like, 'Whoa, OK,'" he said.

According to the James Beard Foundation's website, the semifinalists were selected from some 40,000 submissions that can be sent in by anybody. A committee composed of critics, food writers and editors than culled through the list to select the semifinalists.

Now, the site says: "This list will move on to a voting body of former Beard Award winners, Restaurant and Chef Award Committee members, and other regional panelists. After these judges cast their votes, the five semifinalists with the highest number of votes in each category become the nominees."

Those finalists will be revealed March 19 at an event at James Beard winner Paul Kahan's The Publican on the Near West Side. The winners will be announced at the annual James Beard Awards ceremony May 2 and May 5 in New York City.