DOWNTOWN — The list of James Beard Award winners includes some of the most exclusive restaurants in the country, but the nominating process is surprisingly egalitarian.
Anyone — repeat, anyone — can submit a chef or restaurant for consideration. (The book and media/journalism awards are a different matter.)
It's the equivalent of the Academy Awards giving Joe or Jane Moviegoer a semblance of a say in who wins the Best Picture Oscar.
The call for nominations is now open (click here); submissions are due by Dec. 1. There's no fee, which may explain why in 2016 the James Beard Foundation received nearly 25,000 entries.
Here's where the process goes from being a democracy to an oligarchy: The Beard's Restaurant and Chef Committee winnows down the nominations to a ballot of 20 semi-finalists per category. The voting body consists of approximately 300 previous chef and restaurant award winners, plus 250 panelists drawn evenly from the Beard's 10 regions.
So yes, technically the corner diner has a shot at Outstanding Restaurant. And someday Adam Sandler could win Best Actor.
Restaurant and chef finalists will be announced in March 2018. The winners be named at a gala awards ceremony set for May 7, 2018, in Chicago.